Orange County fills school deputy positions
ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - After the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, school security across the state changed.
Lawmakers passed legislation making it mandatory that every public school has an armed security officer. Last month, we sat down with Orange County Sheriff John Mina to ask why six months into the school year, all of the school resource officer (SRO) positions had not yet been filled. A spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office said, after that interview, they sent out a memo to recruit existing deputies.
The Sheriff's Office said they received more applicants than they had positions to fill, so they got to pick the deputies who were best suited to work with children, leading up to Monday’s big announcement.
“From this point forward, there will always be an Orange County sheriff's deputy at all the 113 schools that we are responsible for in Orange County,” Sheriff John Mina told reporters. “I'm very happy.”
The News Station checked around the state, finding other large districts like Broward, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough and Duval counties have been in compliance with the law. Orange County was the last to make that list. Many districts opted to use private armed guards to supplement sworn officers. Orange County Public Schools chose not to do that.
On the first day, of school OCSO reported being 75 school resources officers short. By mid-January, six months into the school year, OCSO reported being 21 SROs short. Each high school has two SROs, every middle school has one full time SRO.
Until this week, elementary schools were forced to share one SRO between two or three schools. That did not sit well with parents of younger students.
“It's common sense. They need to be protected. Not just part of the day,” a mother of two elementary school-aged kids told FOX 35.
Sheriff Mina acknowledged he understood the frustration of parents in January.
“The challenge is that it takes time. We're certainly not going to let just anyone be there protecting our children so there's an extensive background check that goes on,” said Sheriff Mina.
He says those positions have been filled by deputies they already had on staff.
Last month, the Majory Stoneman Douglas Committee released a study on Broward County Sheriff's Office response to the tragedy. One of their suggestions is to train SROs in single-officer response. Sheriff Mina says all of his new and old SROs have already been through that training.
“So that means if under certain circumstances, if a deputy has to risk their lives and go into a situation alone, they will,” said Mina.
The News Station spot-checked several elementary schools on Monday, and each one had a marked Orange County Sheriff's Office patrol car sitting out front.