The December issue of SSI features an exclusive case study of the unique video surveillance and lockdown solution at All Saints Catholic School in Canton, Mich., that directly alerts the local police command center for faster, potentially lifesaving response time. In putting together the piece, I spoke extensively with the integrator, school principal and lead police officer. Here, in the first of three additional Q&A blogs I talk with Canton Police Department Deputy Chief Scott Hilden about how security assists the public safety mission.
What is your overall perspective of video surveillance and other electronic security to help you accomplish your mission of public safety?
Scott Hilden: We are very much in favor of camera systems, especially in schools. We’ve had a lot of success with a camera system in our public schools, in our high school buildings. And the systems have helped the law enforcement officers assigned to the school solve various cases and incidents that have occurred on campus. The other key component to it is it allows us to look with a live feed into the building as officers are responding so that we can relay that information immediately to the patrol officers that are en route and help them as they get on scene deal with the situation as effectively as they can. We’re very much in favor of it.
What about other types of security systems, alarm systems, whether it’s for schools or businesses; do you find those are helpful? You hear sometimes complaints about false alarms and things like that.
Hilden: We don’t have any complaints of false alarms in any of our buildings — the only system in place in the schools right now would be a fire alarm. It’s very rare we get false activation on those alarms. So far with the All Saints system we’ve had no false activation of the lockdown system. The only time we have problems with alarm systems is generally with commercial businesses that have something that frequently causes it to activate when it shouldn’t but that’s the only time we really have any issues.
Do you see these types of systems playing a bigger role in law enforcement moving forward?
Hilden: I think they certainly can. You have the tradeoff between people thinking that you’re somehow invading privacy in the need of the government in order to ensure the safety of people. From my perspective, the ability to view a camera system en route to an incident or situation is really important to secure the safety. In regards to a school, you’re en route, trying to get there as quickly as you can. You want to deal with the situation as quickly as you can. And to be able to see what’s going on is going to help us deal with that with much more reliable information and a lot quicker than we probably could without it. Ultimately the idea is to save as many lives as possible and the quicker we can get there and the quicker we can deal with the threat, the quicker we can resolve it. Camera systems will help us do that.
I imagine after the fact to help prosecute as well.
Hilden: Absolutely, a whole recorded evidence of the entire event.
If every school in your jurisdiction got the type of system installed at All Saints Catholic School would you have the resources and ability to keep up with all of it?
Hilden: We certainly think so. These events — having the ability to monitor all the schools and have it immediately activate in the dispatch center would be great. You’re unlikely to have multiple events happening at the same time. So having the ability for any school to notify us with this kind of system certainly would be something we’d be in favor of having. It’s a new, cutting-edge idea and a new way to do some lockdowns and notify the police department. If we could get all of our schools on board to this it would be great.
If another agency was looking to do this type of model, what would be your advice or tips to help it go smoothly for them?
Hilden: The only advice I’d have I guess is first of all the agency can’t be resistant to the idea. We were very open, very receptive to having this system brought into our environment. And I suppose there may be other agencies out there that are going to be resistant to that. My biggest piece of advice would be to be open-minded, understand the importance of a system like this, and just move forward as best you can with whoever may be involved in it.
Are there any features you’d like to see in the future that have come to mind, or capabilities?
Hilden: No, as technology continues to improve maybe someday you’ll have live video feeds going right into the police cars that you’re watching what’s happening as you’re driving. I don’t want an officer to be distracted trying to drive though. You get too much technology in the police car, and sometimes that becomes a problem, too.