CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Former Unified police chief discusses how police respond to copycat situations

Mar 29, 2023, 7:00 PM | Updated: Apr 3, 2023, 11:42 am

police at ogden high school pictured after utah school shooting hoax...

Police respond to Ogden High School after a fake report on a shooter was called in. (Adam Small, KSL NewsRadio)

(Adam Small, KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — In wake of a deadly school shooting earlier this week in Tennessee, hoax calls and copycat situations are often a byproduct of such tragedies. On Wednesday, multiple schools around Utah received hoax phone calls of an active shooter situation.

Former Unified Police Chief Chris Bertram spoke to KSL NewsRadio about how authorities respond and the mentality behind it.

“If we get this call, we’re not going to wait to verify it we’re going to call in SWAT team, out tactical units, or we’re going to call people in from outside,” Bertram said.  “That’s an overtime hit, but I think as a chief executive right now, I am going to pay the cost. I am absolutely going to make sure I err on the side of caution.” As time goes on though, we may make adjustments as chief executives on how we are going to do that. Whether we are going to call the SWAT team right away. But I think right now, you’re going to call everybody.”

Making adjustments down the road

Bertram says it may be necessary to make adjustments down the road. 

“As any chief executive probably would say, ‘Listen, I’m going to take them seriously every single time,” Bertram said. “However, there may be checks and balances that start going to the system. We can’t activate the SWAT team until we know shots are being fired. And we need the SWAT team.”

He also says departments may hold off on calling in additional resources because they have their own jurisdictions to protect.

“We may decide to hold off on calling additional resources from outside,” Bertram said. “Where a lot of times, there are very few police departments in the state of Utah that could handle a school shooting by themselves. And most will be calling for resources outside their jurisdiction that put a burden on other jurisdictions.”

If copycat situations continue to be a problem

He says if copycat situations continue to arise, Bertram says departments will have to eventually make a decision with their jurisdiction centered first.

“And if they keep coming, those jurisdictions then have to make a decision as to whether they’re going allow all of their officers to respond, or we’re going to pair it down and send some,” Bertram said. “But we still have to guard our city. Somebody still has got to take care of our city.”

Mark Jones contributed to this article. 

Editor’s note: This story has been edited to reflect the correct title for former Unified Police Chief Chris Bertram.  

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Former Unified police chief discusses how police respond to copycat situations