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MSU Police evaluate campus alert system after recent incident caused confusion, distress

MSU police car

A recent incident at Michigan State University is shining a light on its campus alert system.

The East Lansing Police Department took a suspect into custody Wednesday after they were reportedly seen with a knife on MSU’s campus. University police sent out an alert that afternoon asking those near West Circle Drive to secure-in-place.

That message may have confused some students who were further from the area and unsure of how to respond.

MSU Police and Public Safety spokesperson Dana Whyte said the department is aware the alerts may have alarmed students just over a month after the Feb. 13 shooting.

“We can definitely understand how students were maybe feeling uneasy and uncomfortable," she said. "We want to make sure that we're acknowledging that and being aware of that and listening to our community concerns."

The alerts come from a mass notification platform called Everbridge. The department modifies a set of templates to craft its alerts and deploys them via social media as well as through email and text message to those who've signed up for them. The alerts are also appear on university devices.

Whyte said the department's priority is to get alerts out as soon as possible and provide updates with additional context as officers learn more information. She added the department is open to considering how it can refine its messaging.

“We're always looking for ways to improve that language that we send out initially, making sure it's as detailed as possible while also still getting it out quickly,” she said.

Whyte said the department is exploring how to make its alerts more accessible but encourages community members to sign up to receive notifications online.

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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