By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer
Eastern New Mexico University is changing police procedures after officers’ slow response to a recent verbal altercation between a student and an instructor.
Campus police took 20 to 30 minutes to arrive after being called about the incident Feb. 12, according to police records and witness accounts. The time estimates differ within that range.
The response time was “way, way too long” and was caused by confusion at the police department, ENMU President Steven Gamble said.
As a result, administrators sent an e-mail to students, faculty and staff, asking them to call 911 during any future emergency. The 911 calls will go to Portales city police, who will dispatch an officer immediately and also notify campus police, Gamble said.
“At Eastern, we’re absolutely committed to providing a safe and secure learning and working environment for all our people,” Gamble said. “Without that, you just can’t have learning.”
No one was injured during the incident, in which LaChrystal Ricke, an assistant professor of communication, said a senior student yelled and cursed at her during three different tirades after she refused to let him turn in late work. Gamble said the student was suspended and barred from the campus.
Vice President of Business Affairs Scott Smart and Gamble met with campus Police Chief Ray Chambers and Deputy Chief Doug Miller to address why officers were slow in responding to the call for help from the instructor’s office.
Chambers said Miller took the call alerting police to the incident and was told the student had left the building.
Chambers said he was discussing a problem related to weapons with two officers and multiple weapons were unsecured when Miller, the dispatcher, alerted him to the call for help.
Chambers said he didn’t want to leave the weapons out and told Miller to wait until the weapons were secured before responding to the call.
Asked whether the two officers in the weapons room with Chambers could have responded, Chambers said they could have. He stopped answering questions at that point and sought approval to continue from Smart.
Smart said it didn’t matter because there was no excuse for the slow response.
Gamble declined to comment on whether disciplinary action was taken within the police department.