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Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

Clay County Sheriff’s Office Takes Over School Police

By meerna Jul11,2024
Clay County Sheriff’s Office Takes Over School Police

Clay County Public Schools students will see new faces and their badges when classes resume on Aug. 13.

At that time, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office will replace the school district’s police department, which has been responsible for school security since 2019, with full-time school security officers.

The return to the sheriff’s office will prove beneficial when the school resource officer, now a deputy, needs help at his assigned school, Sheriff Michelle Cook said.

“The benefits are continuity of training, continuity of supervision, continuity of communication. All of those things are what I consider best practices,” Cook said. “Once that (school resource officer) gets on the microphone and says, ‘Something bad is happening here,’ every deputy who’s on duty that day will hear that call for help and be able to respond without any delay.”

The Clay County School Board began creating its own police department in early 2019. The plan was to hire full-time officers to work in its 42 public schools. The district joins 15 other school districts across the state, including Duval County, that had their own police departments.

There were concerns, however, about creating a separate school police department, especially in the event of an accident at a school, Cook said.

“If a school police officer … in Clay County called on the radio and asked for help, that call would go to the Green Cove Springs Police Dispatch Center, which would then have to contact the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, and we would have to dispatch deputies,” Cook said.

Late last year, just four years after the police department was created, the School Board voted to reverse the decision and turn over school safety to the Sheriff’s Office.

“Several school board members campaigned to return law enforcement duties to the Sheriff’s Office,” Cook said. “In November, the school board voted 4-1 to return law enforcement duties.”

Moving the school police officers to the Sheriff’s Office cost about $1 million, which the school district paid for, Cook said. The School Board allocated $6.7 million for the Sheriff’s Office in first-year expenses, funded by a half-cent sales tax approved by voters to increase revenue for public schools, she said.

The sheriff’s office will reuse school police cars instead of buying new ones. A vinyl wrap will be used to convert them to the sheriff’s office colors.

The school district’s police officers had the option to transfer to the sheriff’s office. Cook said she was “very excited” that 33 of them had transferred by last month.

The sheriff’s office will hire new officers to fill gaps in school patrol duties, while a handful of former school district officers will be transferred to the sheriff’s office patrol service, she said.

By meerna

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