Johnston Gives Police Access to Security Camera Footage Inside Schools

JOHNSTON, Iowa  --  The community of Johnston is taking a step to increase the safety of its schools by giving law enforcement an extra tool to use in the event of an emergency.

On Monday night, the Johnston City Council approved a change to an existing information sharing agreement between the Johnston Community School District and the Johnston Police Department. That change means police will now be able to access video security footage within the schools under certain conditions, like a school shooting.

"I think it's in everybody's head that, like, oh, this might happen, this might have a chance of happening," said Johnston High School student Chase Beving.

School shootings have recently happened so frequently that they have become a reality all students think about, and are events for which schools need to anticipate and plan.

"When Parkland came around and now this new one in Texas, I mean, it kinda makes you worry a little bit," said Johnston High School student Jackson Longnecker. "But, you know, I mean there's not really that high of a probability that would happen, but it's always, like, in the back of your head."

"It definitely would be scary, but I feel like I would act right in the situation," said Johnston student Blake Blanchard. "I'm willing to do whatever it takes to keep everyone safe...we all would handle it. We've been through many drills, I mean as class."

The City of Johnston says in response to recent national events involving active shooters in schools, the Johnston School District is now willing to allow the police department to receive real-time access to video security footage within the schools.

"Should there ever be a major incident that occurs inside the school building, we'll be allowed to access that information to be able to see what's going on with the cameras inside the school," said Johnston Chief of Police Dennis McDaniel. "And with that, it will allow us to deploy resources and be able to offer real time intelligence to officers on the street that are responding to the scene."

That reflects a change in position by the district's legal advisors. This new position allowing police to receive that footage meant that the language of one section of a previously adopted agreement between the district and the police department to share information had to be amended under the "Parameters of Information Exchange."

"As incidents happen around the country, it is a reflection for every school district to take a look at their plan and what they may need to put in place or where a shortfall might be," said Laura Sprague, Director of Communications for the Johnston Community School District. "For us, it was just one additional layer of something that could be done jointly to further enhance the safety and security of students and staff."