Q&A: An Interview with Bill Warren, CPP, on School Security

Formerly with the Ga. Tech Research Institute, Warren discusses current challenges and needs for school security


How would profiling and early warning signs have affected your operations at the Georgia Tech Research Institute?

Most of our people, because of the type of research that we were doing, all carried DoD security clearances. Any type of activity [like perpetrator Cho Seung-hui's earlier acts, which were recommended for counseling] would have been flagged to us as they were trying to get their security clearances. That would definitely have been something we were interested in and it would have been flagged to our attention for additional vetting. But in his case, he was recommended to go into counseling, but where was a record of that kept which could have been easily accessed? And why would anyone have even accessed it, because he was not a figure that was red-flagged, per se. He stayed underneath the mainstream of everything.

They had no way of knowing. How do you prevent something when you don't think you have a problem in the first place? That's kind of the mentality that we as a nation have had for many years. We really don't expect it to happen here. True, it happened in Columbine, and we ratcheted everything up for a little while, but when nothing happens for a while, we automatically tend to ratchet things back down.

What should schools be doing right now?

They need to very seriously take a look at their campus, especially through eyes of CPTED. They should see how they can improve access, simultaneously controlling access without limiting the free flow of people through the campus. There may be a need to put some additional cameras in place to give them a better view of everything.

I think more than anything, they need to have a viable and operating emergency notification system, be it the panic podiums all around the campus where if they pick a phone up, it's a hotline right into the police, or having a system in each of the buildings for panic systems and communications. Getting communications opened up very quickly - I think that's the secret to a lot of this.