UTPD changes emergency communications after 2017 stabbing

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Photo Credit: Channing Miller | Daily Texan Staff

Like many students, public relations junior Elizabeth Boone first heard about the on-campus stabbing on May 1, 2017, through the group messaging app GroupMe — not from the police.

“There were people on the other side of the world that knew about it before the students,” Boone said. “It really concerns me that there was yet another stabbing (last week) near campus, and I also found out about it from GroupMe rather than my school.”

After the on-campus stabbing, UTPD Chief David Carter said UTPD recognized there were multiple issues, such as low staffing and delayed communication.

“The key issue that we had to address after (the May 2017 stabbing) was that our dispatch center was not robust enough in terms of staffing or technology,” Carter said. 

Carter said since 2017, UTPD has increased the number of people on staff to allow for three full-time dispatchers and added a console to assist dispatchers with receiving and dispatching emergency calls.

“We recognized that we only had two dispatchers at any given time in our 911 center here on campus, and that we needed to upgrade,” Carter said. “We needed to be able to do the core mission of the police, which is responding and addressing situations.”

After sending texts for on and off campus incidents last year, Carter said the text emergency notification system will now only be used for emergencies that requires students to take action. “We recognize from the tragedy from last year that information is important,” Carter said. “We want to make sure that we’re giving accurate information as close to real time as possible.”

Carter said UTPD will also now be using social media to alert students about off-campus incidents that do not require immediate action.

“We recognize, though, that not everybody’s always on social media, and they would like to know information, so now we’re also looking at the ways that we can get additional information out,” Carter said.

Mechanical engineering junior Gaby Kackley said she was incredibly frustrated with the way UTPD communicated about the on-campus stabbing and still wishes UTPD would focus more on text notifications.

“I appreciate that UTPD is working to create a better system of communication between themselves and students, but there is still a lot to be done,” Kackley said.