La Crosse schools speed up push to give police remote access to security cameras
Jan 08, 2013 (La Crosse Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
New safety measures being rolled out by the La Crosse School District will allow police to remotely access school security cameras from their cars or desktop computers.
Police and schools have been working together for three years to add cameras and increase security -- an effort predating December's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. But the deaths of 20 children and six adults highlight the need for extra precautions, officials said.
"Sandy Hook and incidents like it prompt you to take a closer look," said Robert Lawrence, a captain in the La Crosse police department.
School cameras already help police with investigations and even deter crime on school property, said district buildings and grounds manager Jason Showen.
Remote access adds another level.
If an intruder enters the school and prompts a lockdown, remote access gives responders a way to see inside the building in real time.
Onalaska public schools already have similar technology. But police see a feed from the cameras only if they are near a school, and they can use remote-access capabilities only for emergencies, said Larry Dalton, finance director for the Onalaska School District.
"I can say, very thankfully, that we have not needed the police access," Dalton said.
Unlike in Onalaska, La Crosse police will be able to access the feed from anywhere. Officers are being trained to use the new technology.
"Either administrators in other buildings or the police can then see what's happening," Showen said, "without having to physically be in that building."
Police won't use the cameras to monitor students, Lawrence said.
"We don't have police officers driving around who are monitoring the kids," Lawrence said. "There isn't a Big Brother situation."
The Sandy Hook shooting is officials' minds as they continue to reassess school security, but the massacre isn't the driving force behind new measures, officials said.
"We try not to make decisions based upon a emotional response," Showen said.
Still, shootings have changed how educators and law enforcement officials approach school security: It was a reminder of how important it is for schools to protect against the worst-case scenario, Showen said.
"For me, it says that we really have to have a great awareness that there's potential risks out there," Showen said. "That we have to be constantly looking for."
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