The University of Arizona’s Threat Assessment Management Team has a new director who hoping to change the team’s troubled history.
Dr. Jessie Semmann assumed her new role this fall just before the anniversary of last year’s deadly on-campus shooting.
A year ago, the team had no full-time staff and was not fully organized. Now Semmann says they are meeting weekly to discuss new ways to repair trust and target threats. But she recognizes there is still a long way to go.
“Of course, people are feeling uncertain about what change is going to bring because this campus has been through a lot,” Semmann said. “Sometimes the criticism that we get is really helpful for us in terms of figuring out what could we be doing differently.”
A safety consulting firm reported that UA had decentralized safety functions, creating poor communication between departments and no unified safety plan. That made it hard for the threat assessment management team to respond to threats.
Now, Semman hopes they will build a new system that better reflects community needs, like campus-wide training to inform students, staff, and faculty about what targeted threats are.
“How do we prevent it and then what are some of the skills that we can use to make our workplaces safer and healthier,” Semmann said.
The Threat Assessment Management Team has been the subject of community backlash since last year’s shooting death of department head Tom Meixner. Since then, many faculty and staff have said the team’s fractured structures led to a system ill-equipped to handle targeted violence. UA has since instituted new guidelines for the team working towards implementing new strategies that were recommended to them by PAX Group LLC.
“I think the key is never getting complacent about that,” Semmann said. “Trust is a privilege that we get from our community, and so continuing to work and stay accountable to them and ensure that we're doing what we need to do as a team on a day-to-day basis to get the work done and get it done well.”
The threat assessment management team is not meant for crisis intervention, but rather for crisis prevention. If crisis intervention is needed, Semmann says to call 9-1-1.