April 16, 2008 By News Report
Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich yesterday commended members of the Campus Security Task Force (CSTF) for their thorough study of campus security issues and accepted the group's comprehensive 259-page report, which details recommendations for increasing security at the more than 180 institutions of higher learning in Illinois. The Governor also embraced the task force's legislative proposals to create a $25 million grant program to boost campus security and require campus emergency response and violence prevention plans, saying his administration would act quickly to push for legislative approval.
"When I created this task force in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, I gave it the very serious mission of developing ways that we can make Illinois campuses safer and more secure for our students," said Gov. Blagojevich. "As we mark the two-month anniversary of the Northern Illinois University shootings and the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech incident this week, I commend the Campus Security Task Force for presenting me with a report that provides not only solid recommendations for making campuses safer, but also substantive tools to help campuses move forward in security efforts."
In April last year, Blagojevich announced three campus safety initiatives, including creation of the Campus Security Task Force. The task force was charged with developing and implementing comprehensive, coordinated policies and training programs to deter, prevent and significantly enhance the response to and recovery from major public safety incidents at higher education campuses in Illinois.
The task force's report was originally expected to be completed earlier this year, but members decided to delay finalizing the report to ensure it captured initial lessons learned from the response and recovery to the shootings at the Northern Illinois University campus in DeKalb. Task force members met with NIU officials a few weeks after the incident. While the formal investigation into the incident is ongoing at this time, task force members noted that NIU's response represents an effective model for all-hazards emergency planning, response and recovery at an institution of higher education.
Gov. Blagojevich said he fully supports two legislative proposals recommended by the task force, including the Campus Security Enhancement Act of 2008 and the Campus Security Enhancement Grant Program.
Under the Campus Security Enhancement Act, all Illinois higher education institutions would be required to develop and exercise an all-hazards emergency response plan and an inter-disciplinary and multi-jurisdictional campus violence prevention plan. State and local emergency management officials will assist with the development of these plans, as well as with training and exercises related to the plans. The Act would also require the development and implementation of a campus violence prevention committee and campus threat assessment team. The CSTF Report provided detailed guidance on how to properly develop such committees and teams.
The task force also recommended creation of a $25 million Campus Security Enhancement Grant Program, which would make available funding for campus security response and violence prevention training programs, projects to enhance emergency communications and planning and execution of campus-wide training exercises. Funding for this initiative is included in the Governor's Capital Bill.
While the task force's report was released today, the group last fall implemented other portions of the Governor's campus safety initiatives, including the distribution and training for the use of more than 300 STARCOM21 radios to 70 college campuses throughout Illinois to enhance communications with local response agencies during emergencies. In addition, 200 officials from nearly 100 campuses participated in six Campus Security Awareness Training Program sessions conducted around the state by the CSTF.
The Governor asked task force members to continue their efforts for campus security by meeting twice a year to determine how the recommendations are being implemented and determine if additional measures are needed. The CSTF's report outlines more than a dozen additional actions task force members could address in the coming months.