ECPPS revisits camera access for law enforcement


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Officials with the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools are revisiting whether local law enforcement agencies should have access to live feeds of security cameras at the schools.

All campuses of ECPPS — except for Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Early College, which is located on the second floor of a building on the main campus of College of The Albermarle —are equipped with security camera systems.

Funding to pay for the security cameras was raised through a community effort spearheaded by restaurant owners Andy and Karin Montero beginning in 2013 on the heels of the deadly shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December 2012.

During their initial conversations about the role security cameras could play in improving school security, members of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education expressed an interest in making the security camera feed available to law enforcement agencies. They said if police had the security camera feed in real time, they might be better able to thwart a violent attack at a school or respond more quickly to other dangerous emergencies.

Amber Godfrey, ECPPS director of technology and media services, presented a report last month to the school board’s Global Citizens and Healthy Students Committee on camera access for law enforcement.

In an interview this week, Godfrey explained that external camera access — which in this case is mainly access by local law enforcement agencies — requires cameras that are equipped for that purpose. Certain cameras have that access and others do not, and the types of cameras currently in place vary by site, she said.

Some schools have mainly digital video recording systems, which do not have capacity for external access. Other schools have mainly IP (Internet protocol) cameras that are operated through the internet.

While it's difficult to provide external access to IP cameras, it's possible, Godfrey said. The access would have to be set up by the school district, she said.

The school district is not at that point yet, Godfrey said.

The most easily accessible cameras are VMS systems.The staff is in the process of installing VMS systems in all schools but has not completed the project.

The staff has done some preliminary work on access but is currently waiting for the school board to officially request external access to the camera systems.

Godfrey said she had spoken with Christy Saunders, emergency management coordinator for Pasquotank and Camden counties, about the steps needed to provide law enforcement with access to the school cameras.

That conversation laid some of the groundwork for external access if the board approves moving forward with it, she said.

Denauvo Robinson, vice chairman of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education, said this week that the board is performing its due diligence in balancing concerns about safety with respect for student privacy.

The board is still discussing those issues, he said.