Conference in Myrtle Beach focuses on making campuses safer from shootings and sexual assaults

troot@thesunnews.comFebruary 20, 2013 

— With the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting still making headlines, law enforcement and leaders from South Carolina’s college campuses are attending a conference in Myrtle Beach to learn ways to make their respective campuses safer from such shootings and from sexual assaults.

The 14th annual South Carolina Linda B. Floyd Campus Safety Conference continues Thursday in Myrtle Beach, with the theme this year of readiness for active campus shooter incidents and sex assaults on campus. About 125 college law enforcement and other representatives are attending the event.

Craig Garner, president of the S.C. Higher Education Foundation, said the conference theme was developed a year ago, but is very timely.

“Prior to the Columbine and Virginia Tech tragedies, most of us took campus safety for granted. I know I did,” Garner said.

David Roper, Coastal Carolina University’s police chief, said he is learning some new ideas to take back to campus and networking with other police chiefs at college campuses throughout the state. But if a shooting incident were to occur, Roper said his office is prepared to respond.

Roper, a retired agent with the State Law Enforcement Division, said he uses his background and tactical training to train CCU’s officers and keep the campus safe. Roper also has been helping implement mandatory active shooter training for all faculty and staff. That training also will be part of new professor orientation at CCU and Horry-Georgetown Technical College.

“We do a lot of that and we try to stay on top of things,” Roper said.

Debbie Conner, vice president of CCU’s student affairs, also attended the conference Wednesday and said CCU had about 10 or 12 employees at the event.

“It gives us a good perspective and best practices on campus safety, Conner said. “I think really seeing what people are doing is good and helpful.”

Preventing school shootings includes “a broad range of campus services and we all have a role in this,” Conner said.

SLED Chief Mark Keel said that his agency also is ready to help college law enforcement deal with shootings, deaths and sexual assaults.

“I don’t think putting more guns on campuses . . . is the right solution,” Keel said. “I truly believe the best security we can provide to our schools . . . is having trained officers working there.”

Every law enforcement officer in the state will soon receive “cutting edge” active shooter training, Keel said. The training recently began at the state’s police academy.

“When that call goes out . . . then everybody will be on one page and they will be able to respond appropriately,” Keel said.

Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or follow her at Twitter.com/tonyaroot.

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