Too little, too late?

Behind the scenes of the Ferris alert system

The alert messages sent in December regarding an armed man on campus have left many students wondering how the Department of Public Safety (DPS) handles alerts. 

At 5:50 p.m. Dec. 2, Ferris Department of Public Safety issued an alert stating that there was a report of a man with a gun around North Residence Hall and that there was a shelter in place. The next alert at 6:10 p.m. clarified that there had been a Snapchat photo at 2 p.m. of a man with a gun possibly on campus but that there was no specific threat. At 7:33 p.m., the final alert was sent to let students know that the shelter was lifted and that there was no immediate threat to campus. 

Many students have had questions regarding why it took almost four hours between the time the original photo was posted and when the alert was sent to students. DPS Director Bruce Borkovich, who is in charge of the alert system, said that DPS acted as soon as they had knowledge of the photo. 

“I can’t write a paragraph, I’m limited to 150 characters. The information goes out as we have it. In this particular case, at approximately two o’clock a female and a male posed for a Snapchat and the male had a handgun in his hand. Snapchats have a geography and the geography showed that it was taken in North Hall. Eventually, that picture got to an RA in North Hall,” Borkovich said. 

“The RA called us and we went over quickly to investigate it and saw that, yes, there was a guy on campus with a gun. That’s what we had at the time. As more information came in, we found out that it had taken place hours ago. However, it sounds like as officers walked into the building, that guy was walking out in another area. These messages evolved as we got more information.” 

As for behind the scenes, DPS workers were making calls and locking down buildings once the threat was confirmed. 

“While we’re putting these alerts out, we have about six phones going at once and we’re communicating with residence halls and other more vulnerable areas on campus where there are a lot of students. We had the ability to put the University Center on lockdown so we did that, and we thought ‘what else is vulnerable?’ and we had the ability to lockdown the Rec Center so we did that,” Borkovich said. 

“We immediately let all the residence halls know, the residence halls then immediately have their staff roaming all over checking doors. Then we got police officers from other agencies and sent them to the sports arena. The information that we had was that the guy that had the gun was long gone and headed back to Chicago.” 

Borkovich also added that DPS was first informed of the photo at about 5 p.m. and that the reason for the delay is that they make sure to verify all incidents before sending out alerts so they can avoid false alarms. 

Other questions many students had were what legal ramifications face the man with the gun and was he a student? 

“The mere possession of a firearm on campus is a rule violation, not a law. Now even if someone has a concealed weapons license, if they’re in a dormitory they’re breaking a state law,” Borkovich said. “In this particular case, we discovered a pretty large amount of marijuana, enough to indicate that the person was selling it. 

“We believe that the marijuana was also owned by the person with the gun so that person, had they been caught, would have had several felonies. We’re still working on [the case]. Everything looks like this person is probably a resident of Chicago and we’re still not sure who it is but it’s unlikely this person will be prosecuted and the student who was with this person has still not been cooperative.” 

According to the DPS Crime Log, the crime was classified as a weapon’s offense, an obstruction of justice, an unlawful use of an automobile, a narcotics equipment violation and a possession with intent to deliver. A warrant request was submitted, one suspect was arrested, one suspect is still unknown and five subjects were referred to the Office of Student Conduct.

Click here for coverage of the incident which led to the aforementioned alert message.