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Broward Schools Superintendent: Law Enforcement Might Soon Have Access To Cameras During Emergencies

Carl Juste
Miami Herald
Broward County schools superintendent Robert Runcie gives testimony in front of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission in November at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. He has now sent a follow-up letter to the panel.

The Broward County school district and sheriff's office expect to have an agreement by early next year that would allow law enforcement officers access to live surveillance footage in schools in case of an emergency.

Attorneys for Broward County Public Schools and the Broward Sheriff's Office are hoping to finalize the deal within the next two weeks. Then each agency would formally approve it in early 2019, according to a letter from Superintendent Robert Runcie to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission on Thursday.

Members of the commission acknowledged the letter during a meeting in Tallahassee on Thursday morning. The chair, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, said it's possible the panel will call Runcie back for additional testimony. He appeared for questioning in November as the commission was preparing a report to the Legislature with recommendations for policy changes.

Some commission members have advocated for school districts to give law enforcement the ability to watch live surveillance footage at all times. Runcie has said there are concerns about whether unfettered access to the cameras could violate federal laws that protect student privacy.

The law enforcement and medical response to the shooting at Stoneman Douglas on Feb. 14 was hampered because of delayed surveillance footage. First responders waited, rather than advancing to the third floor of the building where the shooting had taken place, because they believed they were watching live footage showing the confessed gunman still in the building. It was actually on a 26-minute delay, and he had already left. Ten people had been shot on the third floor, and only four survived.

Also in the letter, Runcie wrote the district is moving forward with adopting new policies for emergencies, including "code reds," or active shooter situations.

Read the letter here.

Jessica Bakeman is Director of Enterprise Journalism at WLRN News, and she is the former senior news editor and education reporter. Her 2021 project "Class of COVID-19" won a national Edward R. Murrow Award.
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