Police, schools reach official agreement on school security camera access
NEW CANAAN — The conceptual agreement reached by police and school officials over access to internal school security cameras has become official.
Superintendent of Schools Bryan Luizzi said on Tuesday he had signed a memorandum of agreement with police representatives that gives officers full access to in-school cameras in the event of a “life-safety emergency.”
“We have cameras in all five buildings, and it is a relatively robust network of cameras,” said Luizzi, though he declined to comment on the exact number of cameras or their positioning. “Previously, the police had full-time access to external cameras. They still have that. Now in the event of an emergency, they have access to internal cameras.”
Luizzi said the agreement, which he signed on June 4, stipulates that police have access to the interior cameras only in the event of a 911 call, or if they are contacted by a school principal or the superintendent. The video is stored for a certain amount of time — Luizzi would not disclose how long — before it is deleted.
“Life-safety emergencies,” according to Luizzi, do not include drug deals, hallway scuffles or food fights.
“We’re not there to monitor the children or their behavior. That’s all up to the Board of Education, and they do a great job,” said Paul Foley, secretary of the New Canaan Police Commission. “Our job is to act if there is a need and if there is any kind of unsafe environment there. It’s all safety driven.”
Conversations over access to security cameras between Luizzi and Chief of Police Leon Krolikowski began more than a year ago, Luizzi said. This spring, police and members of the police commission expressed frustration that a deal with the schools was stagnating and that they needed internal access. Luizzi, on the other hand, was weighing concerns relating to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and the handling of educational records of students.
In other nearby towns and cities, similar systems exist. Fairfield Superintendent of Schools Toni Jones said an agreement exists between the schools and police, in which administrators can make the call to allow police access to cameras in emergency situations.
“For instance, a fight between two students would not be deemed an emergency if it were handled by the administration. A principal calling 911 for assistance with an individual who is out of control and on the premises would be an emergency,” Jones said.
Norwalk Chief of Police Thomas Kulhawik said a system of internal access to security cameras exists in the city’s schools, but it is new, and police and schools are working out details of the agreement.
“We are developing our policy for the new school year; however, they (school officials) have full-time access to the cameras, which can be monitored should a situation develop or be reported,” Kulhawik said.
Police in Darien declined to comment on their level of access, citing security risks. Westport police and school officials did not respond to a request for comment.
“Many schools have this now. Unfortunately, it’s a sign of our times. It’s necessary to have it as additional eyes and ears out there,” Foley said.
Luizzi, too, said he was heartened that the agreement toes the line between the safety and privacy of students and faculty members.
“The chief and the police commission are driven by a desire to make things as safe and secure for New Canaan residents as possible, and I certainly respect that,” Luizzi said. “We’re also guided by students’ and teachers’ privacy rights, so we wanted to strike a balance between school safety and privacy. I think the agreement that we reached does that for us.”
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