Former New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton said Wednesday that law enforcement cooperation is essential in responding to shootings like the one that took the lives of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December.

Delivering the keynote address at a symposium on school safety at SUNY Purchase's Performing Arts Center, Bratton said, "We need to collaborate and partner in seeking to identify ways to prevent, ways to respond, ways to protect."

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who also spoke at the event -- attended by close to 300 education and law enforcement professionals -- agreed that agencies need to share information.

"It's about breaking down some of the silos that exist and sharing ideas and information, best practices and practical advice, and real-world examples of what works and what does not," Astorino said.

Bratton, 65, who served as police commissioner during Mayor Rudy Giuliani's administration before a stint as the Los Angeles police commissioner, acknowledged that he would be open to returning as chief of the NYPD under a new mayor and that he had met with several candidates to discuss security issues.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't interested," said the New York City resident.

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Outside the performing arts center, Westchester County law enforcement agencies displayed their tactical vehicles and equipment that would be used to respond to a school emergency.

The symposium kicked off the county executive's Safer Communities initiative, an attempt to prevent and prepare for school shootings like the one in Newtown, Conn., last year. Astorino also has said that he would convene an April 9 forum at the County Center in White Plains with mental health officials to discuss ways to identify problematic behaviors between students and others.

At the symposium Wednesday, Astorino asked how local officials could strike a balance between security needs and allowing free entrance to schools. Bratton said that has to be answered at the community level.

Bratton also said that law enforcement can only go so far in providing protection.

"The emphasis has to be on prevention," he said.

The former New York City top cop's remarks preceded a panel discussion on school safety with representatives of the FBI, school districts, parent organizations and local police.

Bratton started his career in Boston, where he rose to become chief of that city's Police Department.