by James C. Sherlock
Governor Glenn Youngkin took action today with an Executive Directive to “Combat Antisemitism and Anti-Religious Bigotry in the Commonwealth and on Campuses.”
It is excellent, and we look forward to immediate steps by other actors in the Commonwealth.
The Governor’s directive: [emphasis added.]
instructs law enforcement to increase information exchange and resource coordination on potential antisemitic acts through a specialized situation room and expedite grants to organizations facing religious or ethnicity-based persecution.
empowers the Virginia Fusion Center at the Department of State Police to operate at a heightened state to quickly identify threats against houses of worship and faith-based communities.
asks Virginia’s colleges and universities to submit updated comprehensive safety plans to the Center for School and Campus Safety.
increases collaboration between the Department of Education and our K-12 schools and institutions of higher education on safety measures for our students”
instructs all school divisions to promote awareness of resources promoting the safety of their students, especially Jewish students, during this time of unrest globally.
Virginia is the birthplace of the freedom of religion in America, and protecting the community centers and houses of worship of the Jewish people is paramount.
His commitment to safety and security for Jewish people:
extends to all religions, including those of the Muslim faith, who are increasingly concerned about backlash.
College and University safety plans are of vital concern to all of us.
In the case of Virginia’s colleges and universities, I find the Campus and Public Safety Training web page of the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services unhelpful on the subject of group threats.
Both the training that organization offers (“lone subjects,” ”these individuals”) and a reading of a sample of the college and university safety plans yields the impression that they may be focused nearly exclusively on threats from lone actors.
Critical Incident Management Plans are just what the name suggests, but broadly speaking are also supposed to cover prevention and preparation.
The University of Virginia CIMP is a good example.
The only mention of terrorism in that plan is 2.3 DIRECTOR OF EMERGENCY SERVICES. The Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer (EVP/COO) is designated as the Director of Emergency Services. She
will … coordinate University resources to address the full spectrum of actions to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from incidents involving all hazards including terrorism, natural disasters, accidents, and other contingencies.
“Prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover” is a big order.
There are roles under those laws for campus threat assessment teams, campus police, Commonwealth’s attorneys, the FBI, and U.S. Attorneys both individually and in coordination.
We expect that is happening behind the scenes and we hope to see public information on the initiation or progress of such actions as soon as appropriate.
Bad actors need to understand they will be held accountable.
Preparedness. The six parts of the National Preparedness System are:
- Identifying and Assessing Risk
- Estimating Capability Requirements
- Building and Sustaining Capabilities
- Planning to Deliver Capabilities
- Validating Capabilities
- Reviewing and Updating
In the immediate situation, they will have to act with whatever preparation they may have done. But the plans need updating nonetheless.
Bottom line. The Presidents and Boards of Visitors of every college and university have been directed by the Governor to review and update their CIMP’s and supporting plans.
They must consider the threats from the inflammatory actions of organizations, especially those exhibiting support of terrorist actions, as well as lone actors.
Law enforcement must be seen to be acting.
In the current threat situation that features campus unrest and a rational fear of crimes based on religious affiliation, action can’t come too soon.