Information Sharing Article Prompts Response

Published: February 28, 2007

Note from the editor: The following letter was sent inresponse to the “As I See It” article”Nonsworn Agencies Need Access to ClassifiedInformation” written by James Bondi that appeared in theJanuary/February 2007 issue of CampusSafety.

Mr. Bondi could not be more accurate with the many points hemade in his article. School-based administrators who are heavilyinvolved in campus law enforcement and interact with local policedepartments or district attorneys are challenged each day to beg andbargain for access to classified information. It is a common concernthat the information usually shared freely by sworn agency colleaguesarrives too late.

During the past few school years, colleagues and I becameheavily involved in street gang awareness training. At every conferencewe attended, we met with law enforcement professionals who stressed theimportance of gathering and sharing information. They coveredinformation that was critical to the identification of various streetgangs and encouraged school officials and local police departments tocollaborate.

Experts went so far as to provide their contacts, noting thatall attendees should feel comfortable in calling or E-mailing them forassistance. But when we called for some information that was shared atthe conference, we were told it was classified for distribution andcould only be shared in a controlled environment.

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In New York City, the protocol to be followed for even themost classified data is very clear. It has been made available to theDepartment of Education and the New York City Police Department, and isunderstood by the district attorney of each borough. Despite this, mycity’s law enforcement agencies are not willing to share themost critical information with school officials, even when theinformation pertains directly to a particular school.

TacticalOperation Data Should Not Be Shared

The major point of Mr. Bondi’s article (and this response) is
not to question the importance of keeping tactical protocol or law
enforcement procedures classified. No one other than law enforcement
professionals involved in tactical operations should have access to
raids, or buy and bust operations.

The point is not to make classified information unclassifiedeither. The issue raised is related to the sharing of information thatis pertinent to keeping people safe. Knowing that schools within aparticular city are on a target list for terrorists or that the policehave experienced an increase in street gang activity near a particularschool is not nor should it be considered classified.

The safety of all individuals within a school depends on lawenforcement and education professionals working together to plan forand respond to emergencies as necessary. If a particular agencybelieves maintaining such records is important enough for them tocompile, I believe it should be shared with those of us responsible forprotecting schools.

NonswornOfficials Must Be Respected, Accepted

The screening of nonsworn entities is, to some degree, an irrelevant
point if one supports the premise of my response. I certainly agree
that one should be concerned about the people who receive critical
information. However, I stress the fact that those within public safety
communities who are nonsworn (i.e. campus safety administrators) should
be accepted as an integral member of a safety team.

They should be afforded access to the same criticalinformation local police officials have and should be expected to shareinformation related to individuals involved in dangerous/criminalactivity as well. If this reciprocal and critically sensitiverelationship is respected, the concerns that sworn agency officialshave may be alleviated.

While it is important that rules be established to outline theprotocol for the sharing of information, these protocols probably existwithin agencies already. Instead of creating new documents, why notreview existing parameters and simply implement what is alreadythere?

The procedures for implementing practices as related to theworld of safety and security are primarily universal, and theprocedures for the sharing of information deemed to be classifiedbetween sworn and nonsworn agencies should be universal as well.

Dr. JayFindling is the regional safety administrator for the New York CityDepartment of Education. He can be reached at jfindli@schools.nyc.gov.

For the unabridged version of this article, please refer to the March/April 2007 issue of Campus Safety Magazine. To subscribe, go to https://secure2.bobitweb.com/campussafetymagazine/subscribe/.

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