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OHIO Safe and Secure: Reacting to threats of violence

The responsibility of campus safety is a shared role each person at Ohio University takes on in their workplace, classroom or residence hall. Officers with the Ohio University Police Department offer trainings and tips to help the University community maintain a peaceful and productive campus.

Compass recently sat down with OUPD Chief Andrew Powers to discuss how you should react if you hear or see a threat of violence. His answers are below. This information is meant to give the University community insight into how you can play a role in stopping a violent situation before it starts.

For additional training on how to respond to a violent situation, OUPD offers the ALiCE training program, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and escape. The next ALiCE training session will be held in the Baker Center Theatre on Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. Additional ALiCE information can be found at www.ohio.edu/police.

Compass: What should I do if I hear or see threats of violence in my workplace or residence hall?

Powers: If it is what you consider to be a credible threat of violence, you should definitely call OUPD and make a report. You should also report it to your supervisor, or if you’re in a residence hall, to your Resident Assistant, Resident Director or Resident Coordinator. If you feel the threat is imminent, you should report it to OUPD immediately.

Compass: How do I know if what I heard or saw should be reported?

Powers: In some cases, you’re not going to know, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Some things to consider are, if you know the person, what kind of history do they have that you’re aware of. Are they always making these kinds of comments, are they very sarcastic and they’re not being serious? Is this a manner of speech with this particular person and they often make extreme remarks when they are stressed or is there something different about this.

You can also consider if there is a reason for the comment. Is there a motive that you know independently to be true? For example, maybe the individual just broke up with his girlfriend and is making comments about killing this woman. If you know this information and now you hear the individual making remarks about harming someone, that is credible.

The best thing is if you aren’t sure or if it makes you uncomfortable and you think it’s inappropriate, then you need to call the police and let us evaluate it from there.

Compass: If nothing comes of the threat, can I get in trouble for reporting it?

Powers: As long as what you’re reporting is reported honestly and in good faith, no, you won’t get in trouble. We’re going to do investigating that will provide us with information you couldn’t possibly have access to and nobody is going to expect you to know things you couldn’t know and make decisions accordingly.

The only time you’ll get in trouble is if you make something up or deliberately exaggerate it or knowingly report it out of context.

Compass: Can the person find out I’m the one that reported them?

Powers: To the extent that we can, we will do our best not to identify a source.

It’s possible that in some circumstances you’ll be in the only one who will hear a threatening comment, in which case it will be clear who reported the situation. There are steps we can take to protect your safety if you feel you may be at risk. There are laws in place that protect you as a witness of crime. There are mechanisms in place at the University to move you administratively if you feel unsafe in your class or workplace.

The Constitution does grant the right that every person may face their accuser, so at some point your identity would have to be disclosed or you might have to testify in court.

Compass: Should I confront someone who makes a threatening remark?

Powers: The decision to confront someone has a lot to do with your own judgment. Ultimately, you’re probably not going to be equipped to solve the problem. To what extent you’re able to help by confronting versus exacerbating the situation is hard to say.

If it’s someone that you know, that you’re close to, that you’re very good friends with, and you know them well, then maybe you do want to challenge them on their remark. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t report them. By challenging them, saying “you aren’t serious” or “don’t joke like that,” you may learn more about the remark that will help you discern the credibility.

What I would tell people is it depends on how well you know the person, depends on what they say and depends on the circumstances; you have to trust your instinct.


OHIO's policy on threats and violence

University policy 41.135 states, “Ohio University will not tolerate threats, violent behavior, of any kind by any Ohio University employee upon any faculty member, staff member, students, or visitors. Ohio University employees are not permitted to commit acts of prohibited behaviors (enumerated in section III below) in the workplace at any time whether on or off duty.”

These acts or threats include:

  • Stalking
  • Possession of weapons of any kind unless such possession or use is a requirement of the job
  • Assault on employees or their families
  • Physical restraint or confinement
  • Dangerous or threatening horseplay
  • Intentional or reckless disregard for the safety or well-being of others
  • Commission of a violent felony or misdemeanor on Ohio University property

Any employee who believes they have been the victim of or threatened by workplace violence should contact OUPD immediately. “If the situation is not one of immediate danger, the employee shall report the incident to University Human resources.”

To review the full policy, visit http://www.ohio.edu/policy/41-135.html.


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