Orange County Sheriff's Office requests $11M for new school resource officers

Orange County officials reviewing request

By Anna Johnson - Digital Journalist

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A week after the first day of school, the Orange County Sheriff's Office is requesting over $11 million to hire 75 new school resource officers for the 2018-2019 school year. The request is scheduled to be discussed during a Orange County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act into law in March, requiring at least one school resource officer on every public school campus during school hours. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings have been at odds over hiring enough school resource officers for the year since the act was signed into law.

The total requested budget amendment is an additional $11,241,034. If approved, the cost will be shared between the Orange County School Board, the Board of Commissioners and the state of Florida.

If the budget is approved, Sheriff's Office officials said the office can begin hiring SROs immediately, as the new budget would be enough to sustain the new officers' pay for the entire year. Demings has previously said that it would be impossible to hire and train enough school resource officers in time for this school year.

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 Sheriff's Office was unable to provide a full-time deputy to all 116 Orange County schools, Jacobs was caught off guard.

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.

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