An extra tool for school safety
A county program that would link schools to police headquarters should a shooting incident occur, and that would give police a view of the situation to better strategize and respond, was announced last week by county executive Steve Bellone at West Babylon High School.
The Sharing to Help Access Remote Entry initiative, known as S.H.A.R.E., would enroll those school districts who seek it to connect their existing CCTV cameras to Suffolk Police Headquarters’ Real Time Crime Center in Yaphank, enabling police to scrutinize an incident as it is happening and share it with responding officers, allowing them to target which entrances to enter for capture, police officials said. Elwood and West Babylon are the first two districts to sign up, with more expected.
According to officials, the police department will not monitor the school districts on a regular basis, just in an emergency.
There are 71 school districts in Suffolk County, including Eastern and Western Suffolk BOCES. Bellone has expressed that school safety is one of his administration’s top priorities.
Elwood School District superintendent Ken Bossert worked as a liaison between the Suffolk County Superintendents Association and Suffolk police for a year and a half, designing a template that could be utilized by the school districts with police.
Bossert is president of the Suffolk County Superintendents Association.
“Some districts don’t need it,” he said. “Some have their own agreements with their own local police departments. Right now, West Babylon and our district have signed up, but with other districts it’s up to them to vet the program with their own attorneys. Some may modify it. Some will need special equipment.”
Bossert emphasized the procedure.
“Nobody will be monitoring the district,” he said. “The only time the program will activate is if we as a school district declare an emergency and dial 911 because there is an active shooter for police to view inside our building.
“We worked so hard to get it in place, but we hope we never use it.”
School districts like Patchogue-Medford weighed in on the program.
Interim Pat-Med superintendent Donna Jones said she would need to look at more information to decide. “We need more granular details, how does it work, the process, those kinds of things, before we would decide to use it,” she said.
Sayville Schools superintendent Dr. John E. Stimmel was leaning towards it. “We’ve actually been waiting for this,” he said. “The company the police are using, IntraLogic Solutions, is the same company we use. Ultimately, the decision is up to the board of education, so when the police bring their proposal to us, we’ll bring it to the board.”
Stimmel praised the county’s other aid for schools, the RAVE panic mobile application, which enhances the county’s police and first responders’ ability to effectively react to shooter and other emergency incidents. “It covers a range of incidents,” he said. “It’s for key officials in the district, where trained staff members can press a button on their phone to notify police.”
Bay Shore Schools superintendent Joseph Bond said S.H.A.R.E. would be a great asset for school districts and emergency services personnel. “The ability to tap into a school’s video system will allow emergency services to more accurately visualize and more effectively respond to any emergency situation that may arise,” he said, also pointing to the RAVE app. “In conjunction with the RAVE system, which we have already signed on to, S.H.A.R.E will help to ensure that in the unlikely event that law enforcement must respond to our school, they are able to contain any situation more quickly and effectively.”