We are relieved no one was hurt in the unprecedented student hostage situation that occurred on Monday at the MIC Institute of Technology’s O’Meara premises. The incident was a troubling breach of security at a centre of education. While we commend the response of the security staff there as well as the swift action of the police, it is important for lessons to be learned from this incident.
All parents and stakeholders must attend tomorrow’s meeting with school officials in order to be fully apprised of the facts and to receive advice and guidance about the way forward. It is also important that all employees of MIC take advantage of the institute’s Employee Assistance Programme. Most importantly, students must be given adequate support and counselling. This was a traumatic event.
Things could have easily gone worse. According to our initial report, a gunman was able to accost a student in the vicinity of the premises, potentially endangering the lives of not only his target but also students and staff. What is worse was the way the gunman was able to then enter the compound and take a student hostage.
It appears the security did not seem able to rely on the intervention of officers of just one police station. According to MIC, they alerted the La Horquetta, San Raphael, Arima and Pinto Road stations. Though they cast their net wide, the police responded swiftly.
However, a dangerous exchange of gunfire between the suspect and the police officer occurred outside of the premises, and an already horrific situation became even more dire when this suspect sought to escape by running into the institution.
The officers who used what has been described as a common-sense approach must be lauded for taking this course of action and for diffusing a situation that could have easily become fatal.
That said, the Police Service must ensure there are no gaps in the training offered to officers. At the very least we must have skilled individuals who are competent in the management of hostage situations, as rare as they may be. Such training is not only important for the protection of citizens, it is also needed to ensure the safety of the officers themselves. As much as they may have sound levels of experience, they should not have to be put into situations for which they are unprepared.
Attention must now be paid to ensuring the welfare of the students involved, particularly the hostage and the subject of the suspect’s wrath.
Not only is this incident a new low in terms of criminal activity, it also underlines just how prevalent dysfunctional relationships are. Too often we learn of tragic cases in which men resort to violence to deal with feelings.
It was only last month that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had to call on men to stop violence against women.
There can be no justification for the conduct of the suspect on Monday. There is no situation so dire that it must result in the placing of a woman’s life in peril as well as the lives of students around her.
There were reports that the man may have been angered by the termination of the relationship, infidelity, or health issues. None of these matters, if true, call for the kind of response that was witnessed on Monday.
As a society we need to do a better job when it comes to teaching our citizens to manage the ups and downs of ordinary life. And we certainly need to do a better job of keeping unlicensed firearms out of the wrong hands. And away from our schools.