Instead, MSU encouraged Security Risk Management Consultants of Ohio to focus on “what response actions MSU handled well and what actions can be improved,” according to MSU’s proposal to the companies that sought to conduct the review.
The result: a 25 page summary which generally praised law enforcement’s response on Feb. 13, with forward-looking recommendations that said little about what investigators learned about the events of that evening, when three MSU students were killed and five others seriously injured by an armed man.
MSU’s review represents a significant departure from the painstaking, often critical and difficult details contained in after-action reports on other deadly U.S. school shootings, including at a high school in Parkland, Fla., a school elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, and Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia.
After-action reporting experts say such reviews, when done properly, are essential for evaluating law enforcement training and response in emergency situations and, just as importantly, for helping agencies across the United States to learn from past responses.
“You have to know where you’ve been to improve, there’s no doubt about that. You have to know where you are weak,” Wade Carpenter, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which produces best practices and other resources for police departments, told Bridge Michigan on Friday.
Carpenter, who is also the police chief of Park City, Utah, acknowledged that some organizations may be reluctant to reveal any weaknesses for fear that someone else will exploit them before they are fixed. .
Jason Russell, a school safety consultant whose strong bid for the MSU job, said a warts-and-all report would have been better for making changes. He criticized the Michigan State report as follows: “extremely thin and superficial.”
But he also said the university may have considered potential liability when it solicited bids for review. The families of several injured or killed students have legal documents filed indicating they are likely to sue the university, citing alleged security breaches.
MSU officials “certainly don’t want to give the party that’s going to sue you (a report) from a third party that found the same thing that the litigation is based on,” Russell said.
A night of terror
On the evening of February 13, Lansing resident Anthony McRae was shot and killed. Arielle Diamond Anderson19 years old, from Harper Woods, Brian Fraser20 years old, from Grosse Pointe Park and Alexandria Verner, 20, of Clawson. He seriously injured five other students. Most of the carnage took place in a classroom at Berkey Hall. The shooter then left the building and headed toward the MSU union, where he killed Fraser.
Officers searched for McRae for hours before finding him a few miles from campus. As they approached, the shooter committed suicide.
In the hours, days and weeks following the carnage, questions began to arise about campus police’s emergency response and the level of security preparedness on campus.
There was a 12-minute gap between the first 911 calls from Berkey Hall and a campus-wide alert telling students to take shelter. Some law enforcement personnel deployed to the scene themselves, creating confusion as supervisors sought to establish command posts. The lack of a unified security camera system on campus made it difficult for officers to track the attacker’s movements, potentially delaying their ability to confront him.
The university published a request for proposal, the official document used to solicit bids from companies that conduct post-filming reviews. Seven sellers responded. The university announced that it had chosen the Ohio company two months after the shooting.
In its request, MSU wrote: “The after-action review should include a comprehensive assessment of the crisis response itself, including those response actions that MSU handled well and those that could be improved.” »
After-action reports following the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the U.S. Navy Yard in the District of Columbia, and Virginia Tech University all describe – in great detail – specific errors in the response to these tragedies. This was done as part of the Connecticut review, although the report ultimately concluded that the officers performed well in that case.
Following the 2018 Parkland, Florida attack where 17 people were killed and 17 others injured, a scathing report delivered to state officials repeatedly denounced individuals and policies, identifying officers and school employees who had failed to do their jobs.
He called the local sheriff’s active shooter policy “inadequate,” said the school resource officer’s response was “appalling” and called the response of some law enforcement officers and supervisors ” failure “.
Experts say unflinching reviews are needed not to demonize individual responders, but to help police departments learn lessons from these incidents and better prevent future attacks.
“The value of the (after-action report) process cannot be disputed,” Dan Murphy, a former Arlington County (Va.) police lieutenant, wrote in a statement. article 2018 for the International Public Safety Association.
“During the process, leaders can gather lessons and trends. Training gaps and deficiencies can be discussed and identified. Future training plans can be modified to improve future performance.
The MSU study only briefly mentions the complications that arose the night of the attack and praises the officers for their “appropriate” response. It then issues specific recommendations without discussing the events that led to them. The report, for example:
On Friday, MSU spokesperson Emily Gerkin Guerrant defended the university’s request for proposal and final report. She said she wasn’t sure the university would need to specifically request that a timeline be included in the report, but noted that timelines were being shared through public records requests and questions from reporters.
MSU police released a chronology a month after the shooting.
“I don’t know if we said it that way, like ‘tell us what went wrong,'” Guerrant said. “But I believe what was communicated to all the companies that bid , is that we wanted an unbiased review of how things happened, good and bad.”
Seven companies applied for the MSU contract for the after-action report.
The offers ranged from nearly $48,000 from a Colorado company to more than $1.4 million from Secure Education Consultants, Russell’s Michigan-based company, according to documents Bridge obtained through a public records request to the university.
Some companies had extensive experience with after-action reporting following mass shootings, others did not.
Michigan State chose SRMC, which, before being awarded the contract, had no identified experience with mass shootings. She received $193,840, the second-to-lowest offer, and produced the 25-page document.
Following the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech, which killed 32 students and staff and injured 17 others, an appointed commission produced a report on 260 pages. The Parkland Report was 458 pages, and the Connecticut State Police report on the Sandy Hook shooting was 74 pages.
MSU’s report did refer to potential interference by university administrators immediately after the shooting. The report said some members “wanted to help” during the crisis. but I noticed a few “acted beyond the usual role and expectations of a governance board during an emergency situation. »
The report did not expand on this assertion. Board of Trustees President Rema Vassar said Friday that four administrators, including her, went to the university to help and to a local hospital to console the victims.
Trustee Renee Knake Jefferson said at a board meeting Friday that the Ohio company informed the board of the review on Sept. 29, weeks before the report was due. audience.
Guerrant, the university spokesman, said the company introduced board members Vice President and Chief Security Officer Marlon Lynch and interim President Teresa Woodruff at a meeting Virtual.
Trustee Dennis Denno said board members had “serious concerns” about the report and that trustees wanted to speak to the firm, but to his knowledge the firm has not spoken to board members about administration outside of this information session.
“I just think if the purpose of the report was to find out what we did well and what we didn’t do well, everything needs to be on the table,” Denno told Bridge.
Frank Straub, who conducted several after-action reviews, including one 99 page magazine about the Parkland shooting on behalf of the National Police Institute, told Bridge that sometimes companies release a public report as well as a private internal report.