Orange County commissioners approve $11M to hire school resource officers

Deputies currently working overtime to meet new security standards

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The Orange County Board of Commissioners approved a request on Tuesday that will allow more than $11 million to hire 75 new school resource officers for the 2018-2019 school year.

The request came in a letter from Sheriff Jerry Demings on Friday who said the additional deputies are needed to fulfill the mandates of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. The new law requires at least one armed guard on every public school campus during school hours.

The total amount approved for the budget amendment is $11,241,034, which will be shared between Orange County Public Schools, the Board of Commissioners and the state of Florida.

While the new funding will put a full time deputy in every school, Mayor Teresa Jacobs said hiring and training those deputies will likely take several months.

"What we need now, is we need a law enforcement officers in our schools, every school, as quickly as possible," Jacobs said.

Jacobs and Demings have been at odds over hiring enough school resource officers for the year since the act was signed into law.

In May, Demings said in a memo that his office would need to hire 75 school resource officers for the 2019-2020 school year. The plan for this year was to use 66 Orange County deputies, working overtime, to fill the necessary spots. Some of those deputies were not informed that they would be serving in that capacity until the Friday before school began.

Jacobs said it was planned that Orange County Public Schools would cover the cost of the deputies' additional hours. When she read an Orlando Sentinel article claiming that the Orange County Sheriff's Office was unable to provide a full-time deputy to all 116 Orange County schools, Jacobs was caught off guard.

"For me, learning that there was a shortcoming through the paper rather than knowing in time for us to try to address it was unfortunate," Jacobs said.

She said funding the new hires was never an issue, but Demings never provided a budget. Demings said he could not provide a budget until the Sheriff's Office reached an agreement with the School Board, which was finalized Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Jacobs said she would be meeting with the Sheriff's Office and school district to discuss additional solutions.

"I think the key is to think beyond the normal ways we do business and to recognize law enforcement officers that are working for the state might be able to fill that gap in the meantime," Jacobs said.

After the board approved the request for more than $11 million to pay for the new school resource officers, Orange County Public School officials said "that currently some elementary schools have less than full-time coverage on alternating schedules."

"The district has been able to double the amount of School Resource Officers' coverage on our elementary school campuses thanks to the partnership with the sheriff and the commitment of the school board to pay for full-time coverage with overtime hours," school officials said in a statement. 

The funding will gradually replace the overtime hours from deputies pulled from other departments with full-time officers in the remaining schools, according to OCPS.

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