Schools asked to pay more for resource officers

Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 5:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 5:55 p.m.

The school district and local law enforcement moved quickly to get police officers in every public school following the Newtown, Conn., school shooting in late 2012, and most would say that's a good thing.

But to make the arrangement more sustainable, the Alachua County Sheriff's Office and Gainesville Police Department are asking Alachua County Schools to foot more of the bill.

Alachua County has had a school resource officer program since 1982, Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell said.

For most of that time, deputies were placed only in the high schools and middle schools.

The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012 prompted the School Board to ask the Sheriff's Office to place deputies in elementary schools, as well.

Currently, Darnell said, the school district contributes 42 percent of the service cost of those deputies, while the Sheriff's Office pays 58 percent.

Due to the price of fuel, materials and health insurance rising, Darnell and GPD Chief Tony Jones asked the School Board during a workshop Wednesday to increase its contribution to 50 percent of the deputies' service cost, which is more in line with what other school districts in the state pay.

This academic year, the school district pays about $26,000 per deputy — 42 percent of each deputy's service cost, which doesn't include the patrol car, radio, weaponry or other operating costs.

"You're getting a deal," Darnell said.

Raising the district's contribution to 50 percent would bump up that expenditure from $724,000 to $862,000, she said.

Other counties, such as Duval, have done away with their agreements with local law enforcement agencies and formed their own police departments specifically for schools, but that's an expensive endeavor, Darnell said.

School Board members were quick to agree on the importance of having school resource officers even in elementary schools.

Board member April Griffin pointed to a lockdown at Terwilliger Elementary on Monday because of a stabbing death at North Florida Regional Medical Center. Griffin said the school resource officer's presence at the school helped allay parents' fears when they weren't able to pick up their children from school.

A school shooting incident occurs about once every two weeks in the United States, Darnell said.

"It's the times we live in," Griffin said.

Wednesday's meeting was a preliminary discussion so both sides could plan ahead for the next budget cycle.

The School Board and the Sheriff's Office would have to bring their new arrangement to the County Commission for approval.

Contact Erin Jester at 338-3166 or

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top