Cops could tap into cameras at two Arlington Heights schools, under proposal

Arlington Heights police would be allowed to tap into camera systems at two schools during any emergency response, under an agreement to be considered Thursday by the Northwest Suburban High School District 214 board of education.

The police department is seeking permission to access existing cameras at John Hersey High School and the Forest View Educational Center, where District 214 has its alternative schools and administrative offices.

Police would only be able to view real-time footage once a 911 call is received through Northwest Central Dispatch System at either location. Through a platform created by Georgia-based Fusis, the video stream could be viewed at the police station's real time crime center hub, in squad cars, and on officers' cellphones.

"We are requesting access to this for the safety of the students," said police Sgt. Sean Edmondson, who brought the proposal to the school board late last month. "I am standing here as a sergeant in the Arlington Heights Police Department. But I also have two twin 8-year-old girls, and every time I go to drop them off at their elementary school, the last thing that sticks in my head as a police officer is, 'I don't know what's going to happen today at their school,' and it scares the hell out of me. It's the sad reality that we live in."

Pending school board approval, district officials will decide exactly which cameras get police access, but in-classroom cameras won't be among them, according to Chris Uhle, the associate superintendent of activities and operations.

Edmondson said the cameras aren't meant to be used in any "punitive" manner against students.

"We are not interested in monitoring students, what they do during the school day," he said.

Arlington Heights police are trying to expand the program throughout town, inking tentative agreements with Northwest Community Hospital, hotels, gas stations and major retailers. There's no initial cost to the schools or businesses for a large data box that attaches to their video systems and transmits images to the cloud.

The program integrates surveillance feeds with building floor plans and the body camera locations of officers, squad cars and ambulances - all overlaid in Google Maps.

"This building itself is somewhat of a maze for our officers to respond here, and figure out exactly where they are going can be kind of difficult," Edmondson said of Forest View. "However, if they have that in their squad cars or even on their cellphones, they can know what faces them as they progress through the building and know exactly where they're going."

The Fusis system is relatively new but is already being used at police departments in Oak Brook, Oak Lawn and Orland Park. Other Northwest suburban police agencies have had discussions about adopting it or similar technology but haven't committed to one or the other, Edmondson said.

As District 214 has schools in Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Mount Prospect and Rolling Meadows, officials said they would reach out to police departments there about whether they planned a similar implementation.

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