My Point of View: Balancing Security with Open Campus Spaces

Cherokee County school district Chief of Police Mark Kissel is a pragmatic man. A lifelong law enforcement professional, he has been at the helm of this north Georgia school district for more than 15 years. According to Chief Kissel, if there is one thing that has not changed over the years, it is the expectations of safety in a school environment.

“The typical parent wants as broad a spectrum of security that you can possibly put on your building. But the reality is that it all comes with a high price tag,” says Chief Kissel. “The other biting reality is realizing what purpose will all this technology actually serve once you put it in? It is one thing to have video surveillance capabilities, but schools aren’t like large retail businesses that have someone constantly monitoring those cameras. I work from a real world perspective that says if a bad guy wants to circumvent your system, most likely they will find a way. Our job as security professionals and school administrators is to find that realistic and happy medium to keep our staff and children safe.”

Chief Kissel and county administrators have managed to find the funding to take one of the largest school districts in the state and create a rousing success story. With a mixture of uniformed and certified school law enforcement officers and new security technology, the school district has migrated all its middle and high schools to new IP cameras and implemented card access control for its teachers and administrators. The 13 elementary schools that had little to no security equipment have been retrofitted with the standard analog CCTV systems once in the high schools.

“New schools are being constructed with security technology in mind and the technology is budgeted in. It is the retrofitting the older schools that is the challenge. The district is looking to eventually tie the video surveillance into our access control systems to provide alarm capabilities,” adds Chief Kissel.

It is experiences like those of Chief Kissel and his Cherokee County school district that drives the format of our upcoming Secured Cities event in Baltimore on November 4-6. It is our mission to provide peer-led experiences of best practices and lessons learned driving the Secured Cities ecosystem. To that end, we have tailored the 40 event sessions to reflect real-world operational and management scenarios in the key urban public safety zones — municipal/downtown business districts, school and university campuses, healthcare campuses and facilities, and transportation hubs.

Blending both operational and technology management case studies with expert panel sessions, along with live-site tours of working venues, Secured Cities is unique in its presentation of how the public/private partnership initiatives drive the Public Safety sector.

As conference director, I’m excited to announce several new sessions to our program. They include:

  • “Someone to Watch Over Me”: The Rise of Public/Private Surveillance Programs — This session will examine how cities are working engage private sector entities and even the general public in the development of public/private surveillance capabilities.
  • Physical Security Interoperability for Federal and Local first responders — This panel session includes industry experts with a fresh perspective on Interoperability from a cyber-security, physical security and life safety product manufacturing, and stakeholders from Federal and State government who benefit from the use of interoperable technologies.
  • Safe City Best Practice: Open Video Surveillance Solution — This interactive panel discussion will highlight the extensive planning and actual process the City of Santa Ana underwent in order to achieve their ultimate goal: A surveillance solution that is flexible and easy to use.
  • A Case Study: Inside Boston’s Critical Infrastructure Monitoring Program (CIMS) — This session will feature latest advances in Safe City initiatives through the real-life example of one of the nation’s leading city-wide security efforts: Boston’s Critical Infrastructure Monitoring (CIMS)

To see the rest of the program and learn how you can register for this 2 ½-day event, please go to or contact me directly. There are also limited sponsorships still available.