Santa Fe police: School cameras only used in emergencies

December 5, 2018

Santa Fe police monitor surveillance cameras at the city’s two main public high schools only if there is an emergency or a perceived threat, police brass told the school board Tuesday.

Chief Andrew Padilla and Deputy Chief Robert Vasquez said officers don’t use the system to watch what students and staff in Capital High School and Santa Fe High School are doing all the time.

“We’re doing it so we can direct resources to the proper areas in an emergency situation,” Padilla said.

Superintendent Veronica Garcia told the board the district and police department decided to initiate the arrangement in March following a mass shooting in a high school in Parkland, Fla., last February.

She said the school district and police department are working on drafting a memorandum of understanding to formalize the arrangement. Padilla said that memorandum may include expanding police access to school security cameras at all of the district’s 30 schools.

School board president Steven Carrillo said he was upset that the superintendent had not told the five board members about the police tie-in to school security cameras, which have been in place since 2013. “It caught me completely off guard,” he said.

García responded that she decided to make a quick decision in the wake of both the Parkland massacre and a shooting in a school in Aztec that occurred last December. She said so much activity was going on regarding implementing security standards to protect students that it “slipped my mind” and she failed to inform the board.

For the most part, the other board members approved of the idea and said it will provide an extra layer of security for students in the event of an emergency.

The video cameras mainly focus on entryways, hallways and grounds of the schools and not on what is happening in the classrooms, bathrooms or locker rooms, García said. Police are not using the video feed to monitor student behavior or disciplinary problems, she said.

To date, police have only accessed the video surveillance system four or five times, she and Vasquez said, primarily in response to safety drills or false alarms regarding reported threats.

Tuesday’s school board meeting was primarily focused on school security and safety, evidence that the wave of concern emanating from this year’s school shootings has not subsided.

García told the board the district plans a one-year pilot program that will utilize a communications app that district personnel can use to immediately warn of an active shooter, a possible threat or even a medical emergency on campus.

That Rave Mobile Safety panic button app will be tested at Santa Fe High School, the nearby Early College Opportunities school adjacent to Santa Fe High, and the district’s transportation department, housed in a facility next to those schools on Yucca Street.

Some board members suggested expanding that program to Capital High School, which would double the cost of the pilot program from about $7,000 to $14,000. García said she will consider that request.

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