Fulton County Schools is giving local police the ability to view live security camera feeds inside its schools during “emergency situations,” such as mass shootings.

The Sandy Springs City Council on June 21 approved an agreement allowing that city’s police department to view the security cameras, and suggested private schools offer similar camera access.

Fulton County Schools Police Chief Melvin Dean told the council that the proposal is intended for “dealing with active shooters.” However, the agreement approved by the council gives access during “emergency situations,” broadly defined as an event that “poses an imminent threat to the life, safety, health or property” of the school district or any people within the building.

“This is obviously in the wake of school shootings in Sandy Hook and Colorado,” said Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, also citing this month’s mass murder at an Orlando gay nightclub. Giving police the ability to see inside a building under siege would help public safety, he said.

Dean told the council that he believes system would be the first in the metro area. The system requires agreements with all cities within the county, he said.

The school police department already views school security cameras feeds itself from district headquarters on Powers Ferry Road in Sandy Springs. The new system would install a program allowing local police to temporarily patch into the camera feeds through a portal that a school IT employee would open and close. Local police would only have access with permission during emergencies.

The agreement requires the system to comply with student privacy laws. Sandy Springs Police Deputy Chief Keith Zgonc told the council that the legal department reviewed and approved the agreement.

City Councilmember Gabriel Sterling said similar camera access could be useful in private schools, especially Jewish schools, which are “much more likely to be targets.”

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.