Detroit Public Schools to invest in $41.7 million student safety plan

Contact: Steven Wasko at 313-873-4542 or Jennifer Mrozowski at 313-873-8401

The safety of students in Detroit Public Schools is expected to dramatically improve under a cutting-edge $41.7 million new public safety plan to be rolled out in the 2010-2011 school year.

The technological upgrades come on the heels of a top-to-bottom restructuring of the Office of Public Safety to improve efficiency and accountability. The district also plans to construct a new building to house the Office of Public Safety.

“When I talk to parents about what should be the district’s top priorities, many place safety and security in schools above anything else,” said Robert Bobb, the district’s emergency financial manager. “Our new safety and security plan is designed to improve school monitoring with state-of-the-art digital cameras and alarms and a new employee and student badge system that combined will allow us to know exactly who is in our buildings at all times and cut police response times in an emergency.”

The vast majority of the funds for the new changes will come from the $500.5 million bond issue Detroit voters approved in November 2009.

The centerpiece of the plan is a new alarm and digital camera system. The system will significantly increase the level of detail in security monitoring at throughout schools and will allow Detroit Public Schools police officers to remotely monitor school cameras via the Internet using new desktop computers.

High schools will get 100 cameras each, putting stairwells, hallways, parking lots, entrances, computer labs, storage closets, gyms, cafeterias, among other locations, under surveillance at all times. K-8 schools will get 32 cameras and elementary schools will get 24 cameras each. The systems include video surveillance, monitoring systems for the district’s police and a notification system tied to each school’s P.A., phone, bell and clock systems.

The changes also will reduce the opportunity for theft of district supplies, said John Bell, Inspector General for Detroit Public Schools, who oversees the Detroit Public Schools Police Department.

“If an alarm goes off, the officers will know not just which school has an incident, but which part of the school,” Bell said. “If there is a break-in, they’ll know exactly which entrance has been broken into, which will allow them to respond more effectively.”

High school students will be issued swipe ID badges that will give administrators up-to-the minute attendance information, which is crucial in emergency and lockdown situations.
In addition, all district employees will be issued state-of-the art biometric identification badges that will be tied into the payroll and attendance-tracking systems. Employees will be required to sign in and out using their new badges, along with a thumbprint verification system.

The new system will replace the three outdated badge systems currently in place and will facilitate better monitoring of employee attendance.

The new security systems will be monitored from the new Office of Public Safety, which will be built on district-owned land. The new building is necessary because the School Annex building that currently houses the department is so outdated that it cannot accommodate the technological infrastructure necessary to effectively monitor the schools. The building is expected to come online this fall.

For the first time in recent memory, the police department will have a streamlined staffing structure that will be led by a new team of experienced law enforcement officers.

Chief Roderick I. Grimes, who was hired last year, will be joined by Executive Deputy Chief Craig Schwartz, Deputy Chief Stacy Brackens and Director of the Support Operations Bureau John Anderson.

Brackens, a former deputy chief with the Detroit Police Department, will head the Patrol and Protective Operations Bureau, which includes campus police officers, patrol operations and emergency management.

Anderson, a retired Lieutenant from the Detroit Police Department who served as the DPD Budget Planning Officer , has a Masters Degree in Education and was a former administrator in the district’s grant office. He will oversee the Records Management office, financial operations and personnel administration.

Both will report to Schwartz, who will head the Criminal Investigations and Technology Bureau, which includes the detectives unit, gang intelligence and crime prevention.

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