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U46 considering partnership with Elgin police for video integration

To ensure public safety across District U46 schools, officials are considering an agreement with the Elgin Police Department for video integration.

The measure, discussed recently at a U46 Board of Education Meeting, intends to sync the security camera system installed at the district's schools for law enforcement use.

District U46 director of safety and culture John Heiderscheidt said the proposed agreement has been talked about between the police department and District U46 for more than a year.

"This request is in mind with incidents like Sandy Hook, Columbine, the recent incident in Orlando," he said. "To bring us to a place where if we had to have a situation, where emergency police department was called to respond to a situation like that, they would have the tactical information that they need the best from our camera systems. They would be linked and be able to view our camera systems from their state of art real-time information network at the city of Elgin's police department."

Officials recently completed a district-wide installation of video camera and servers.

District U46 has a number of cameras running at each of the high schools, including five to six on exteriors and between 20 and 40 on interiors.

At the elementary schools, two to three cameras are set up to survey the exteriors. No cameras are used inside those buildings.

The system that operates at the district's middle schools have two to three cameras on the exterior, while between eight and 20 cameras are filming interiors.

"They're put in there at our best, most intelligent placements to help us see forensically what occurred," Heiderscheidt said.

Heiderscheidt said law enforcement officials would always have a connection that doesn't turn on or off.

Heiderscheidt emphasized that all parameters of the intergovernmental agreement home in on when it's OK for law enforcement officials to view District U46 cameras and for what purposes.

Under the pact, Elgin police gain access to view school cameras when they receive a call from the school for assistance, when any person notifying the police department for assistance pertaining to a suspected criminal activity on or around school property, when alarms are activated, when a human or natural hazard is reported or observed on or near the school, and when facilitation is necessary to obtain a tactical view in response to potentially dangerous situation.

Heiderscheidt said understanding the agreement's call for law enforcement use in real time situations is important.

"Also, the fact that the police department would not be able to record, this is a not a recording, or their record, if you will," he said. "The record is our record, it's a U46 record. These are our records, but they would be able to view them real time for a police-related event that was involving a school or a worst situation that we can think of type event."

The pact, if approved by the U46 Board of Education, would go into effect immediately and run until the school year's end.

Heiderscheidt said having a one-year agreement gives officials time to review the success or the failure of the program.

Board member Phil Costello questioned if there are any downsides to the agreement.

"This seems like a great agreement," he said. "Do you see any downside to this? I can't see any. Do you see any?"

Heiderscheidt said there might be downsides to the pact if someone views a camera for a purpose not outlined in the agreement, but he couldn't foresee any negatives.

The city will pay about $7,000 for the software to connect Elgin schools to the system.

If the district decided at the year's end to discontinue the program, the city would bare the disconnect cost of that software system, the agreement shows.

"An agreement like this is intended to be for us so we can respond and be agile if the situation changes in the United States of America with any types of situation that could happen," Heiderscheidt said. "We're thinking 30 years, 50 years from, we're not thinking just the here and now."

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