A school security camera.
Cleveland police have partnered with CMSD to improve surveillance coverage around school buildings. Credit: Cleveland Metropolitan School District

In January, Cleveland school district officials introduced a plan to give the Cleveland Division of Police access to security cameras outside school buildings. 

Tuesday, in a livestreamed message to parents and students, district CEO Eric Gordon said they are making good progress connecting CMSD cameras to the police department. As of Wednesday, Feb. 22, 13 schools have had cameras integrated.

According to CMSD spokesperson Roseann Canfora, the schools where the camera integration devices are already installed include James F. Rhodes HS, Lincoln West HS, John Marshall HS, John F. Kennedy HS, John Adams HS, Glenville HS, Ginn Academy, Garrett Morgan HS, East Tech HS, Collinwood HS, Luis Muñoz Marín, Marion Seltzer and Charles Mooney.

The remaining sites where cameras are being installed are John Hay HS, Robert Jamison, and Mary Bethune.

All are in areas Cleveland police identify as needing greater surveillance.

Gordon said several times that the issue of rising violence needs a community response, not just a school response.

“These things are not simply school issues,” he said. “They are community issues, and the school is a part of that larger community. I am really pleased that the City of Cleveland has taken this very seriously.”

How the camera integration works

During this week’s budget hearings at Cleveland City Council, Cleveland police gave a presentation on the software they use to access surveillance footage from multiple sources, including the recently integrated school district cameras.

The software, called Fusus, is a cloud-based platform that allows officers in the police department’s Real Time Crime Center to see footage from public and private security cameras all in one place. 

According to Fusus’ website, a school, business or individual can plug a camera network into a Fusus device that will then transmit the feed to police via the internet. The software provides the option of a livestream available to the police at all times or an on-demand option triggered by an alert sent from the camera’s location. 

Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia, spokesperson for the Cleveland Division of Police, told Signal Cleveland via email that investigators are able to watch the footage in real time. Detectives and analysts will be responsible for reviewing the footage in the case of an incident, she said. CMSD cameras are not monitored by police 24/7, but officers can access the feeds at any time. 

Potential Privacy Concerns

At the last school board business meeting, on Jan. 24, board members brought up concerns that the camera partnership could lead to an unnecessary increase in police interaction with students, especially in cases where it would be more appropriate for school staff to intervene. Others asked who owns the data and where recordings would be stored.

Gordon said these issues are being discussed. He said the district will monitor the city’s use of the cameras over time and that the agreement can be terminated if CMSD finds the cameras are being misused. 

Ultimately, CMSD owns the data. Anyone else, including the city, would need to request recordings and data from CMSD, he said.

“We do not want student disciplinary behaviors to become criminalized. We will be monitoring as we work with the couple of pilot schools that are already in place,” Gordon said.

An existing agreement, signed in 2021 between the City of Cleveland and Cleveland Metropolitan School District, details the policy that allows Cleveland Police’s Real Time Crime Center access to the live feeds and maintains that the school district remains in control of how the data is shared with other entities.

Who else is doing this?

At least six other Ohio school districts share access to their cameras with local police.

Police departments in Dayton and Toledo both use the FUSUS system to access cameras on the outside of public school buildings. In Dayton, police can also see feeds from inside cameras, but only when alerted by someone in the building. 

Other Ohio school districts that share their camera footage with police include Lakewood, Ravenna and Mason.

This story has been updated to include a complete list of CMSD schools with camera integrations in place.

K-12 Education Reporter (he/him)
Paul, a former City Year Cleveland AmeriCorps member based in a charter school, covered K-12 education for Signal Cleveland until August, 2023. Paul joined us from Cleveland Documenters, where he focused on creating infographics and civic tech to make public information more accessible. Paul is also a musician, photographer and graphic designer.