used for its intended purpose: emergency response. Also, when officers log on to the district's server, they will only have access to the camera system, which will eliminate any chance of them accessing student records or personnel information. The district also will establish policies regarding who will have access to the server and when it can occur, Muto said, adding that all access will be tracked and monitored.

"We anticipate during emergency situations would be the only time that it would be activated," he said.

Forging the Path

The Franklin Regional School District isn't the only education system in Pennsylvania working with the local police in such a manner. When Council Rock School District IT Director Matthew Frederickson attended a community meeting about two years ago, some police officers were discussing an incident that occurred at one of the high schools. Frederickson's response was, "We should really give you access to our security system cameras." And a new partnership was born.

About three years ago, the school district, located in Bucks County, installed a security system that included 48 video cameras in one of its high schools. Frederickson was hired by the district after the security system was installed, but he suggested that the network infrastructure be restructured using an IP-based system. He said the school district utilized Cisco Systems infrastructure, so the IT department added the company's Video Surveillance and Physical Access Control systems to integrate with the network. "The total cost of ownership would be less expensive than a stand-alone system and could be supported by network staff," Frederickson explained.

Thanks to the new system, school officials access the live video feeds wirelessly through a Web browser - and they wanted to open that access to police officers in case of emergency. "The superintendent decided what we really needed was a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the police department that basically says, 'You won't use the access that we've given to you, unless we request it,'" Frederickson said.

The MOU was made to quell the fears of parents who, during a board meeting, expressed concern that police officers would use the video feeds to watch their children if they suspected them of wrongdoing. Frederickson said the system hasn't been used by the police as of yet, and there also haven't been any further complaints from parents or other community members. The police access is mostly for after-hours use, when the building is empty and the school's resource officers are off duty. There also are security measures in place to keep the system secured - it requires a user ID and password to log on, and users must go through a VPN firewall to connect outside of the school district.

It tracks who accesses the network, which provides Frederickson with a view of how it's used.

"The concern is if something happens in the schools after hours and the police have to go onsite, and there's a possibility that they have to go in the building," he said. "It would be nice for them to be able to see what's going on."

The recordings also can be beneficial if there's an incident at the high school because officials can review what the cameras caught. In one instance, Frederickson said, recordings were burned to a CD to show the exact events that transpired in a criminal case the police were pursuing.

 

Elaine Pittman  |  Associate Editor

Elaine Pittman is the associate editor for Government Technology, Public CIO and Emergency Management. Before coming to Government Technology, she worked for The Coloradoan daily newspaper in Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached via email and @elainerpittman on Twitter.