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UMW president tests campus security
UMW President Judy Hample fakes emergency call, says it was part of campus safety exercise

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Date published: 10/23/2009

BY JEFF BRANSCOME

University of Mary Washington President Judy Hample recently faked an emergency call to campus police, but a college spokesman said officials should have known it was part of a safety exercise.

During a campus safety walk late last month, Hample used an emergency system--called a blue light phone--to tell a dispatcher that somebody was preventing her from entering her vehicle in UMW's parking garage, a spokesman said. She identified herself as Judy Hample but didn't say it was a test.

Two students who witnessed the incident said Hample's voice grew more and more panicked. At one point, she told the dispatcher that the man may have a gun and urged police to hurry.

Police responded on foot and in cruisers with sirens on.

The Bullet, UMW's student-run newspaper, first reported the incident. It's against the law to file a false report to police, but UMW spokesman Torre Meringolo stressed that Hample's call was part of an official school exercise.

He said Hample is not at fault for what he called a "failure in some internal communication." He said she informed "key individuals" of her plan to test emergency response systems.

"This is one of the things that happens on the campus safety walk," Meringolo said. "Everything that has to do with campus security is tested and observed."

UMW's safety walks focus on student concerns such as broken pathways and unlit areas on campus.

Meringolo said Assistant Vice President for Public Safety Susan Knick had tested the blue light system during a previous safety walk, but the dispatcher "failed to respond." Campus police should have been aware of "the real potential for another test of the system" on Sept. 30, he said.

UMW sophomore James Sennett, who helped organize last month's safety exercise, said that in the earlier test Knick identified herself to the dispatcher and told him what she was doing. She asked the operator to confirm which blue light phone she was using, but he couldn't.

Police are supposed to be able to tell which phone is being used.


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