School security in Oakland

For police departments, preventing school shootings, such as the one in Florida, is extremely difficult. The challenge is how to balance security with not having a school seem like an armed camp.

On Thursday, a day after the mass slaughter of school students in Florida, KTVU rode along with officer Roland Lam, a police officer with the Oakland Unified School District.

He was setting out for Oakland Technical High School. And nothing in particular was going on, he just wanted to check in. Typically, he circles the perimeter of the school, by car, to have a look around.

"I'm looking for kids hiding in hot spots, behind bushes," said Lam.

Lam goes inside to touch base with one of the school principals and then he walks the camp.

"How are you guys doing with the news from Florida?" he said to a group of students.  

"Pretty crazy. It happens a lot," replied one student.

That is some of the way school police officers build trust on campus and perhaps learn of problems before they escalate.

"We get calls from principals and teachers where there was a fight at school or someone threatened someone on social media. We go out, our officers, and talk to the kid, talk to the parents," said Jeff Godown, police chief for the school district police department.

Oakland Unified is the only school district in the Bay Area that has its own independent police department. The next closest is Stockton.

Lam is one of 20 officers who patrol the middle and high schools, along with 90 civilian officers.

"Different problems in their lives may start to surface and we take heed of the little details in their life that may set off red flags," said Lam.

At police headquarters officers also monitor security cameras posted at all campuses. 

“We're more embedded in the schools and have a better relationship with teachers and counselors,” said Godown. “We have a pulse of what is going on in the schools every day.”

Schools also receive training each year on what to do if there is an active shooter at their school.