Richardson taps officials with area ties for safety panel

Staff and wire reports

SANTA FE — Gov. Bill Richardson on Thursday named members of a higher education Campus Safety Task Force created in response to Monday’s killings of 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus by a student who then committed suicide.

The panel, which includes leaders from the state Public Safety and Higher Education departments, will assess security needs on New Mexico’s college and university campuses and make recommendations.

Included on the panel are Eastern New Mexico University’s Chief of Campus Police Ray Chambers and Secretary of Higher Education Beverlee McClure. McClure is former president of Clovis Community College.

The shootings are “an unfortunate reminder that we must be vigilant and protect the valued lives of our students, faculty and staff,” Richardson said.

McClure said that while she’s confident New Mexico campuses are quite safe, the task force will identify anything that needs improvement and will allow changes to be implemented quickly and effectively.

The task force, which will hold its first meeting next week, also includes campus security and police as well as city and state police officials, regents, administrators and fire officials.

After the Virginia Tech tragedy, Richardson asked McClure to begin working with public colleges and universities to ensure adequate safety measures, including regularly updating safety, disaster response and crisis communications plans. The state also will look at the training levels of campus security personnel.

McClure has asked college and university presidents to answer a survey on campus safety so the task force can review the responses.

Richardson also is asking New Mexicans to ring bells at 10 a.m. today in memory of the shooting victims. New Mexico will join Virginia and more than a dozen other states in simultaneously ringing bells.

Virginia has declared today a day of mourning.