Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced a new school safety initiative that would allow school districts the ability to connect their existing CCTV camera systems directly to the Suffolk County Police Department. The initiative, which was unveiled at the Suffolk County Police Academy in Brentwood, would enhance the efficiency of a Police Department response to an active shooter scenario. This would also foster more collaboration and information sharing so that police officers will be directed towards specific entry points and locations in a school building to neutralize or prevent an incident from occurring in a much more rapid manner.
“We will do whatever it takes to protect our schools by utilizing every available tool and partnership at our disposal,” said County Executive Bellone. “The S.H.A.R.E. initiative will provide law enforcement the enhanced capabilities needed to respond to a security risk, and I look forward to working with our Superintendents and stakeholders on how we can keep our schools safe.”
In an effort to engage school officials, County Executive Bellone also announced that Suffolk County will convene a meeting of all School Superintendents on March 15 to formally seek voluntary consent agreements with each school district that are interested in participating in the program. The meeting will provide an opportunity for school officials to meet directly with Geraldine Hart, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Long Island office and nominee to become Suffolk County Police Commissioner, as well as officials from the Suffolk County Police Department; Suffolk County Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services; and Suffolk County Department of Health. This will ensure School Superintendents build on their longstanding history and working relationships and ask any questions or raise concerns directly to county officials.
Additional outreach to other community stakeholders will continue beyond the March 15 meeting to include presentations from the County Executive’s office, Police Department, and Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the District Attorney’s office. This will include extensive engagement with Parent Teacher Associations and law enforcement so that parents have confidence that best practices are being utilized.
Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini said: “We have been preparing and training for the nightmare scenario that we hope never happens. In the Police Department, we enhanced our readiness for an active shooter scenario or a terrorist attack, but most importantly to take measures to prevent those incidents. I want to thank the County Executive for his leadership.”
Suffolk Acting Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron said: “The Suffolk County Police Department has been working diligently for many years to protect the children of our county from harm. This new technology is a great leap forward. It would assist our department should we ever need to respond to a school emergency.”
Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon said: “I applaud Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone for his leadership on this issue and for launching the SHARE initiative as a proactive approach to collaboration between our schools and county police agencies.”
Suffolk County Legislator Monica Martinez said: “The coordination and cooperation between law enforcement and educators is essentials to produce a safe environment which is conducive to learning. It is our responsibility as adults to safeguard the well-being of our children but we need to do it collectively. By teaching and training educators and students in schools to know what to do in the event of an active shooter, we are helping prepare to deal with one of the worst nightmares of our time.”
Additional Safety Measures
The Suffolk County Police Department employs a number of methods to ensure the safety of all residents. These include regularly conducting active shooter trainings for police officers so that they understand the proper procedures and protocol to deal with an incident. The Police Department also deploys tactical and medical response vehicles to enhance the department’s ability to respond to various emergencies. This includes The Police securing a $200,000 grant from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services to fund the purchase of ballistic helmets and armor plate vests to provide the equipment necessary to deal with an active shooter situation.
In February, the Police Department announced it outfitted 25 police cars with new portable tablets, replacing fixed laptops, allowing officers to use their computer outside of the police vehicle. Officers can now carry the devices anywhere during a call for service providing full access to data. The tablets will also work as a phone and digital camera. Officers, who do not have department-issued cell phones, can now be reached directly by other department members via telephone through the tablets. The tablet provides a platform for technological additions like video conferencing. All police vehicles are expected to have tablets by the end of 2019.