We have been discussing whether or not James Holmes’ psychiatrist could have or should have known how dangerous he was and what she could or should have done about it.
Yesterday, ABC News reported that the psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton was, in fact, very concerned about the threat that Holmes posed and reported him to her colleagues on the University of Colorado threat assessment committee.
This committee had been organized by the university to identify and help students who were presumed to be dangerous.
Dr. Fenton reported on Holmes in early June, but, before the committee could meet, Holmes dropped out of school.
Whatever the legal issues now swirling around this case—and there are many—the question we should now address is this: if the problem was sufficiently severe to be reported to a threat assessment committee, why was it not reported to competent law enforcement authorities?
Holmes was just as much of a threat after he dropped out of school. He might have been more of a threat.
We do not know whether Holmes saw Dr. Fenton after he dropped out of school, so, we will not speculate on that matter.
The larger question is: should academic institutions should take on law enforcement functions, and is it sufficient for a physician to report concerns to university authorities and not to the police.
Take another example: members of the coaching staff at Penn State were aware that Jerry Sandusky was a sexual predator. Was it sufficient for them to report to university authorities or should they have informed the police?