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School resource officers can access cameras remotely
Officers can view footage from phones, iPads
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Gainesville Police Sgt. Kevin Holbrook talks Thursday about the planning that went into making Gainesville Middle School as safe as possible for students. Over the years, the procedures used to keep students safe has changed as threats have changed. - photo by Erin O. Smith

With the beginning of a new school year, a mother approached Gainesville Middle School school resource officer Brian Clark about the safety of her child.

Clark walked with the parent into his office near the center of the school, a room with elephant figurines and a wall of flat-screen televisions showing security camera feeds.

“She just kind of had that awe effect and said, ‘I think you can see every move he makes in this building,’” Clark said.

In addition to the school cameras inside the building, resource officers and school officials for Gainesville and Hall County schools now have the ability to see the cameras remotely.

“We can pull the cameras up on our iPads or our phones,” Clark said.

Hall County school officials discussed last week the new capabilities for all school resource officers and principals to access the information on their phones.

In seven years patrolling the schools, Clark said the surveillance cameras in use have nearly quintupled.

“In 2008, I had a computer ... and somewhere around 25 cameras or so at the old middle school when it was over where Wood’s Mill is now,” he said. “Now you’re looking at three computers and I think there’s 123, 124 cameras, roughly.”

The cameras are placed in areas all around the school, to include entrances and exits. The extra security and protection comes after events around the country involving school shooters.

“It’s no longer a smile and happy face with a pretty badge. It’s a first responder protecting our youth,” Gainesville Police Sgt. Kevin Holbrook said.

School resource officers are Peace Officer Standards and Training certified and carry a sidearm. In the summer months, the officers practice Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training, which focuses on active shooter scenarios and situational awareness.

The spectrum for the school resource officer, Holbrook said, swings between investigator for the school’s population and the first line of defense against outside threats.

“That’s the mindset that we have to be in,” Holbrook said.

With two school-aged children of his own — Taylor, 14, and Dylan, 12 — Clark said he feels comfortable with the security measures in place, though new suggestions are made each year.

“I wouldn’t have brought them here if I didn’t think it was a good school and a safe school,” Clark said.

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