ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- There was a big change announced Tuesday to St. Pete’s plan to keep students safe.
It is part of a major give-and-take we're seeing between local school districts and law enforcement, as every school in the state tries to meet the deadline to hire safety officers.
The change: officers will not be pulled from the streets to serve in elementary schools.
Those 25 officers would have been pulled from community patrols and the SPD gang unit.
So, what will Pinellas County Schools do now that there's been a change in plans?
They tell us the district will hire armed security for the schools that don't have resource officers.
“I have to admit, I've struggled a bit with this. Because if we're going to have guns in schools, I want those guns on police officers, not on security guards or on the wrestling coach,” Mayor Rick Kriseman said at a press conference at city hall.
He's calling out Governor Rick Scott for passing the new school safety law, without making sure there was enough funding for districts to make it a reality.
“I truly feel bad for the school district. They've been put in a really bad place. Rick Scott signed a bad bill that didn’t include the necessary funding and the legislature placed a requirement on the district that makes it nearly impossible for the district to hire enough police officers to occupy each school in time for the upcoming school year.”
The governor’s office responded hours later with this:
“There is absolutely no reason as to why the Pinellas County School District should not put officers in every school. The Mayor should focus on working with the Pinellas County School District and local leaders on ways to prioritize school safety instead of criticizing an important law, and hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding.”
But, Kriseman said it’s not feasible.
“As time went on, we learned, one, more and more cities and jurisdictions were using security guards. And, two, the Pinellas County School system wasn't fully accessing all the financial tools available to them. And, the MOU sent to us by Pinellas County Schools contain language, requirements and other terms with which we were not comfortable."
Like requiring the officers to be available for an 18-month period. Kriseman said the city isn't confident it would end after 18 months.
“People are happy. They don't want to lose their community officers, especially when that officer may be able to respond to a school.”
Police Chief Anthony Holloway backed up that notion at the press conference.
“We can respond to any place in the city within five minutes.”
A community rep at the press conference is happy officers won't be pulled from the community.
“The mayor ran on a platform of supporting the neighborhoods. He's done a great job and here's a perfect example of that,” said Jennifer Joern, president of the Disston Heights Civic Association.
These guards PCS plans to hire will go through 132 hours of training through the sheriff's office and undergo an extensive screening process.
The district said the guards will fulfill just one part of their school safety changes.
The other changes include reviewing and improving campus security plans, adding active shooter training for school staff, and expanding mental health training and services.
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