The move is expected to save the school district $1 million.
“It’s not enough to save schools’ money to pay the school resource officer bill to (the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office),” said Paul Soares, chief of operations of Duval County Schools.
Since 1995, JSO has put SROs in Duval middle and high schools. In 2006, it cost the district $3 million, and in 2009, it jumped to $4.2 million due to growing pension costs.
“When we get a JSO officer, he’s got at least 10 years. Most of them have 15, 20 years,” Soares said. “So they’re making a $60,000, $70,000 a year salary. With benefits, they’re making over $100,000.”
Jacksonville Schools To Hire Own Officers
The Duval County School Police Department is hiring qualified Florida Certified Law Enforcement Officers to serve as full-time patrol officers, school resource officers and investigative personnel, according to the release.
Duval County Public Schools currently partners with the JSO to provide SROs at schools, with the exception of two K-8 schools and three of the five Alternative to Out of School Suspension Centers.
The officers the school board is hiring will be certified law enforcement officers in the state of Florida, and the district is planning to recruit individuals who have previously served with sheriff’s offices or school police departments throughout the state, according to the release.
“JSO has like 150 officers retiring the next three years alone,” Soares said. “We’re probably going to pick off 10 or 20 of these guys that have school resource officer experience.”
Having its own school police will give the district full authority of SROs, meaning that officers will be on their assigned school campus full time, available for school personnel during regular working hours, according to the release. The officers will also patrol school campuses during winter, spring and summer breaks.
The district said it plans to hire nine SROs by July 1 and 15 additional officers by Oct. 1. A full transition of all JSO school police to the Duval County School Police Department, which will consist of 60 officers, will occur by October 2011, according to the release.
Sheriff John Rutherford released the following statement Wednesday afternoon: “This conversion of SROs from JSO officers to DCPS police is a cost savings opportunity for the JSO and the school district. Although the timeline is not as quick as I would like, this is being done by mutual agreement and we’re working closely to have a smooth transition.”
To be considered for the DCSPD, a qualified candidate must be a certified law enforcement officer in Florida and successfully complete a polygraph, background check, oral board and medical and psychological examinations. Interested and qualified applicants can apply online.