Some called it a brawl, others a riot, but however it was categorized, top officials in Indiana County want to make sure the incidents leading up to St. Patrick’s Day this year are not repeated next year.
The Indiana County Chamber of Commerce has gathered stakeholders to form a task force aimed at finding ways to better respond to such incidents and maybe even prevent them in the future.
“We are truly concerned with the image that is conveyed for our community,” said Indiana County Chamber of Commerce President Jim Struzzi. “We want to make sure that when people come to Indiana ... they feel safe.”
Rowdy crowds of several hundred pre St. Patrick’s Day revilers gathered in several locations on and near the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus March 8, 2014, prompting police to make several arrests. School disciplinary action was taken against many of the students involved.
Shortly after the holiday, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management agency was called in to help dissect what happened.
Struzzi expects that report to be published soon, but his group did not want to wait to take action.
“The final onus is going to be on us to make the changes to do the things we need to put in place, the process that prevent these things from happening or if they do that we respond appropriately,” Struzzi said.
Among the areas of focus for the task force:
- Creating a unified command center combining the efforts of borough, township, university and county law enforcement.
- Exploring social media and engaging psychology professionals to find ways to prevent, monitor, influence and anticipate such events.
- Conduct tabletop drills to prepare for future public disruptions.
The school has been in Indiana County for nearly 140 years, but this type of a task force has never been assembled.
“Dr. (Michael) Driscoll, the IUP President has only been in place for two years, and I have to tell you he has been a breath of fresh air for the community, because he truly is a community member who sits down with us and wants to work with use,” Struzzi said. “And the scale of these incidents had not been to the level that it was, and we don’t want to see that kind of thing happen again.”
Struzzi hopes to have a more formal plan in place before school starts August 25.