• Orange County Sheriff responds to mayor's memo about SRO funding

    By: Chip Skambis , Len Kiese

    Updated:

    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings responded Saturday to a memo sent by Mayor Teresa Jacobs regarding additional funding for school resource officers. 

    "Realistically, even though the funding may be available, initially, the Sheriff's Office would not be able to hire that many qualified officers to meet the requirement," wrote Demings in a memo sent in response.

    Here's the full response the sheriff sent the mayor: 

    This is my response to your August 10, 2018, memo. There have been numerous meetings and correspondence between members of my staff and the Orange County School Board. I am pleased to report a new contract is very close to being executed and a strategic plan for fulfilling the mandate is in place.

    The Orange County Sheriffs Office will need to add 75 deputies (65 SRO deputies & 10 supervisory positions) to the existing staffing levels to provide the presence of a least one School Resource Officer at each public school campus during school hours. When the additional manpower is approved by the Board of County Commissioners, the hiring and training of these new officers will begin immediately.

    Realistically, even though the funding may be available, initially, the Sheriff's Office would not be able to hire that many qualified officers to meet the requirement. Until the new SRO's can be hired and trained, overtime details of existing deputies will be used in conjunction with OCPS police to provide daily patrols of all public schools in unincorporated Orange County. In the contract negotiations with the School Board, these overtime costs will be reimbursed back to the Sheriff's Office. No additional funding for overtime dollars will be required from the Board.

    In summary, the Orange County Sheriff's Office is requesting the addition of '75 deputies to our current manpower to satisfy the mandate of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. Although these new positions will be employed as soon possible at an estimated cost of $11.2 million dollars, it still will take several months or longer to be fully deployed.  Therefore, only partial funding will be required for the upcoming budget year.  The exact details of the funding will be worked out with your budget office when the positions have been approved.

    We appreciate your commitment to ensure the safety of the children of Orange County.

    Jacobs sends Demings a memo

    There are just a few days left before the school bells ring in Orange County, but the mayor is wondering if the safety plan for schools is adequate. 

    "I did expect that when the school year started next week, that there would be a deputy assigned full-time from the moment class starts until the day ends,” said Jacobs. 

    Jacobs sent a memo Friday to Demings, with the subject line, “Additional funding to ensure dedicated law enforcement on all campuses.”

    "I wanted there to be no question whatsoever that Orange County committed to funding public safety in our schools," Jacobs said. “When I saw that there were not going to be deputies in all of our elementary schools all day long in the unincorporated areas in particular, I was concerned.” 

    During a news conference, Demings outlined his plan for placing school resource officers in the more-than 100 Orange County schools in his jurisdiction. That includes temporarily placing 38 additional deputies on the school resource officer unit to cover schools. 

    "A total of 105 deputies will be assigned to the schools in unincorporated Orange County on a daily basis to ensure that our children are provided a safe environment," said Demings.

    But it's still not clear whether each school will have a dedicated officer for the entire day, or if some will be shared.

    Regardless, the sheriff said the department needs to hire more deputies to fill spots.

    "In the coming year, we will continue to hire and add additional deputy sheriffs to offset the tremendous overtime costs that we will be incurring to make sure our schools are safe,” said Demings. 

    Jacobs said if it’s a funding issue, county commissioners will make it work for this year’s budget. 

    Demings said there is no question the district will be as safe as it’s ever been for the start of the school year.

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