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Friday, August 10, 2018

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs says she'll 'find the funding' for law enforcement officers at schools

Posted By on Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 3:59 PM

After Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings announced yesterday that his agency hadn't managed to hire enough deputies since the passage of a new state law requiring every public school have security personnel, county Mayor Teresa Jacobs says she will help "find the funding." 

On the local level, the new state law – which was approved in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead and 17 more injured – guarantees one full-time deputy in every one of the 117 campuses in Demings' jurisdiction. Orange school district, however, has opted out of the section of the law that allows some school personnel to carry firearms on campus or hire additional non-law-enforcement employees for the job, instead deciding to staff schools with officers through contracts with local law enforcement and to use the district's in-house police force.

But in the five months since the law's passage, Demings tells the Orlando Sentinel that there wasn't enough time to hire the appropriate amount of deputies, and that the statewide additional funding of $97.5 million wasn't enough to cover the costs.

"I know you share my same concern for our children's safety; however, I have just learned that you are not able to staff every school in unincorporated Orange County with a dedicated deputy during school hours," Jacobs writes in a memo to Demings. "Please let me know as quickly as possible how much additional funding you will need to fill this gap, and we will find the funding necessary to meet this critical safety need."

Jacobs then writes of how, following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012, she wrote to Demings to propose additional funding for a deputy in all elementary schools. She notes how Orange County middle schools and high schools already have full-time resource officers on campus.

"Today, is it my understanding that the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act requires that same level of coverage I proposed in 2012, a full-time deputy or resource officer on all campuses during school hours," Jacobs writes. "While there may be other interpretations, I believe the parents, the children and our entire community expect that every school will have a dedicated law enforcement officer on campus throughout the school day."

Since 2014, according to an update on the school district's Facebook page in June, the district has spent $20.3 million on security measures since 2014 and is currently in the process of spending an additional $11.6 million.

In 2012, as a result of an increase in school shootings nationwide, the Orange school district hired the consulting firm Safe Havens International to review security across campuses and make recommendations on how to approve. Following the shooting at Douglas High School, the same consultants were asked to return for a second review, according to the district's statement.

"In our opinion, OCPS has aggressively, proactively and professionally confronted the topic of school safety in a manner that stands out to our analysts as among the most impressive efforts of this type we have seen during our assessment projects for more than 6,750 K-12 schools," the consulting firm wrote at the time.

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