Security cars

Florida Tech security cars parked outside of the security office on campus.

Following the police shooting of a student that took place on Dec. 3, limited information has been released regarding Florida Tech security’s involvement.

Alhaji Sow was killed by a Melbourne Police officer and a Florida Tech security guard in an encounter where Sow, armed with scissors, lunged at the officer, according to a Melbourne Police Department statement. 

It is currently unknown if de-escalation measures were taken in the incident, and whether Florida Tech’s security is trained in de-escalation tactics. 

The Florida Tech Department of Security would not respond to emailed questions. 

Wes Sumner, vice president of executive communications, said in an email, “We have reviewed your interview request with legal counsel and have determined that it would be inappropriate for the university to respond to these questions at this time given the ongoing law enforcement investigation concerning the Dec. 3 incident.”

In 2019, Florida Tech published its policy for campus security officers and their use of defensive weapons. In the policy, it outlines five stages of intervention:

  • First, officer presence: the visual presence of authority to subdue a situation.

  • Second, verbal communication: the officer uses conversation to attempt to control a situation.

  • Third, empty hand control: the officer may have to restrain a party physically. 

  • Fourth, use of non-lethal weapons: if all else fails, use of pepper spray is permitted. Security officers are required to undergo formal training in use of pepper spray. 

  • Last, use of lethal force: the officer will use a deadly weapon to control a situation. 

It is currently unknown how many of the other stages were undergone during the incident. Because the investigation is ongoing, the information available has been limited. 

The training Florida Tech Security receives in terms of de-escalation is unknown. 

The security office on campus is a member of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA). Lisa Foster, the director of communications of the IACLEA, said, “The IACLEA is the largest professional association devoted to excellence in campus public safety and law enforcement.” 

The IACLEA releases a standards manual that all schools wishing to be accredited must abide by. Florida Tech, as members, are not accredited and therefore are not held to the same standards of accredited universities. Their membership with the IACLEA does not guarantee a level of higher safety training on campus. For non-accredited universities, the standard manual can only be considered a suggestion.

“IACLEA has no written standards for members,” Foster said.

To become a member, an agency merely has to sign up and pay the appropriate fees.

One of the primary standards outlined in the manual is basic training for all officers. The contents of this recruit training can vary slightly from county to county, but it overall follows a similar path.

 In Brevard County, police officers are required to take a course on serving the community, which, in the program provided by Eastern Florida State College, seeks to train officers in how to respond to people with unique challenges, people in crisis, and high-risk groups. The course involves teaching officers how to de-escalate situations involving these demographics according to Paul Ring, the public safety coordinator at EFSC.

Further, the IACLEA manual states that all agencies provide an annual retraining program, and the topics that are covered in retraining are determined by the agency as appropriate. Topics include, but are not limited to, emergency management, changes to policies and procedures, and dealing with mental health emergencies.

Procedure on the use of deadly force is also outlined in the IACLEA manual. It states that campus officers may only use deadly force under a reasonable belief that it is in defense of human life, in defense of any person in imminent danger, or to protect someone facing a significant threat of serious harm. 

The manual emphasizes the use of reasonable force, which stipulates that officers “only use force that is objectively reasonable to accomplish lawful objectives,” and that officers should “apply de-escalation techniques when possible.”

Following the use of deadly force, the manual states that there must be a report filed detailing the incident. After which, the report will be reviewed by the school to determine if the officer acted within agency policy. 

During the time of review, it is also required that the officer responsible for the use of force be removed from their regular duty. 

Sumner said to Florida Today, "While the FDLE is conducting its investigation, Florida Tech will not discuss the specifics of the incident, including providing the name of the involved employee. Florida Tech is a private, non-public institution and therefore there are no statutory exemptions that apply."

The names of both the police officer and Florida Tech security officer have yet to be revealed following the incident in accordance with the ongoing investigation. 

Lastly, the manual requires that the agency provide annual in-service training on use of force and that they undergo the training annually.

Other than the standards suggested by the IACLEA, it is currently unknown what Florida Tech’s standards are for training of campus security officers, and whether retraining is required or provided on matters of deadly force, dealing with situations of those suffering a mental health crisis, and de-escalation of situations without the use of deadly force. 

(3) comments

Slime

I am wondering if there have been any more leads on Alhaji's story. All the other internet outlets (I know about) have dropped his story, which makes sense-- the news does not wait to be told to happen. Still, so many questions...

Thank you for this information.

paravamedia

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