Funding needed for school resource officers
Published: Monday, January 28, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 25, 2013 at 10:41 p.m.
A version of the following letter has been sent to the four members of the local legislative delegation and legislators serving on key committees and subcommittees.
We know that you share our concern for the security and well being of Florida's children, especially in light of the recent tragedy in Newtown, Conn.
School safety is a priority in our community, and local law enforcement agencies have an excellent working relationship with Alachua County Public Schools. For example, school resource deputies and officers jointly funded by the Alachua County Sheriff's Office, the Gainesville Police Department and the school district are currently on duty in all middle and high schools.
How important are those personnel to the safety of our schools? Just ask the students and staff at High Springs Community School. Last May, a man who was the target of a child abuse investigation opened fire with a firearm on campus. He was shot and subdued by the school resource deputy from ACSO and a sergeant from the High Springs Police Department. As a result of their immediate and heroic actions, what could have been a fatal and/or mass shooting situation ended with no injuries to the students, staff or other citizens at the school.
Of course, enhanced security is just one of the benefits of full-time and specially-trained law enforcement school resource personnel. By building a rapport with students, school resource officers and deputies prevent violence and other problems before they occur. They are an excellent resource for students, staff and parents in such areas as bullying and gang prevention. They mentor at-risk students and help schools reduce truancy.
Unfortunately, neither our law enforcement agencies nor the school district have the funds needed to place personnel in each of our elementary schools. In fact, it's been a struggle just to maintain the personnel in our middle and high schools in light of budget reductions and lower property tax revenues over the last few years.
Here in Alachua County, ACSO and GPD have temporarily assigned off-duty deputies/officers to local elementary schools, but this is only a short-term measure. A more permanent solution is necessary.
As you prepare for the upcoming legislative session and the development of the 2013-14 budget, we request that you and your fellow legislators allocate new dollars to fund resource deputies/officers for schools throughout Florida. In fact, we would ask that you consider allocating emergency funding now so that school resource deputies/officers can be assigned for the rest of this academic year.
The benefits will extend well beyond school campuses. School resource personnel are in a unique position to prevent crime in local neighborhoods as well as in the schools, and the rapport and trust they build with elementary students and their families will have long-lasting and positive results for the entire community. Their presence will also reassure Florida parents and those considering moving here that this state is committed to protecting their children.
We also request that you include in the budget additional facilities funding for public schools so that they can address security-related needs which are certain to arise in the coming months.
Thank you in advance for your support of our children and our communities.
Sheriff of Alachua County
Chief Tony Jones,
Gainesville Police Department
Chief Joel Decoursey,
Alachua Police Department
Chief Steve Holley,
High Springs Police
Chief Linda Stump,
University Police Department
Chief Mike Szabo,
Waldo Police Department
Superintendent Dan Boyd,
Alachua County Public Schools