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Dearborn police to gain access to Dearborn schools' security footage

Beenish Ahmed
Michigan Radio

Dearborn police will get access to live school security footage after a unanimous vote by the Dearborn City Council last week.

The Dearborn Police Department will only have access to the live feed. As for video recorded by the security system, only authorized individuals through the Department of Technology for the Dearborn Public Schools may view it, according to the agreement.

Council members and Superintendent of Dearborn Public Schools Glenn Maleyko said the decision comes after years of seeing school shootings across the country. He suggested that the police could locate active shooters more quickly using the live feed.

"Something that keeps superintendents up at night is a potential active school shooter situation,” Maleyko said. “So this is just another layer of protection to save time (and) potentially save the life of a child, student or a staff member."

"I know with Parkland and a few others, it took the police a little while to determine where the intruders were. This would help them isolate where they are so that they're not going into the building kind of blind."

But he said the technology could be used in other emergencies as well. The types of emergencies where the district will request live police surveillance are not specific. Maleyko said this is because “every emergency situation is different,” and the district did not want to “limit” itself.

Maleyko said, for example, that police could survey during medical emergencies, weather alerts, lockdowns or evacuations.

Authorized dispatchers in the police department are only supposed to access the live feeds during those emergencies, but the district will not be immediately alerted when an individual accesses the system. The district said it would attempt to develop this technology, but for now, the district will audit who accessed the feed once to twice per month or by the superintendent’s request.

Maleyko said cameras are not currently used in classrooms.

The agreement also stipulates that cameras may only be used in common spaces like hallways, stairwells, parking lots, front offices, gymnasiums and supply rooms and not in spaces where there is a “reasonable expectation of privacy,” like bathrooms and locker rooms.

City Councilman Robert Abraham pointed to the September 11 attacks as a reason police should have access to the feeds at the city council meeting.

"One of the criticisms that came up after the attacks on our country was the lack of sharing information between agencies,” Abraham said. “And at a microcosm level in our own community, I think that's exactly what we're doing here.”

But some Dearborn residents who spoke during the city council meeting were critical of the decision, concerned it would infringe on civil liberties and privacy.

Activists with Accountability for Dearborn criticized the move, saying it is a violation of student and teacher civil rights and that they “oppose the criminalization of our community’s learning spaces.” The group argued surveillance technology does not make schools safer and said that some research suggests it does the opposite.

“Surveillance technologies result in the penalization and punishment of Black students and students of color,” the group said, citing a study by the University of Florida.

This isn’t the first time cameras were controversial in Dearborn Public Schools. A group of physical education teachers filed a lawsuit against the district several years ago, saying the Dearborn High School principal placed security cameras that intruded on their privacy.

Maleyko said not every camera throughout Dearborn Public Schools is capable of feeding live footage to police. Updates to the district’s video security system are not included in the agreement.

Sophia Kalakailo joined Michigan Radio in Sept. 2021 and is a senior at Michigan State University studying journalism and minoring in documentary production. She previously interned at Bridge Michigan and was an editor for The State News and The Eastern Echo covering a wide range of topics.
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