Within weeks of the mass school shooting in Parkland, the Florida Legislature passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. The law requires a police officer or sworn school guardian be present on all public school campuses.
Individual school districts decide how they choose to comply with the law. Sarasota County opted to develop its own police force. Sarasota County Schools Police Chief Tim Enos recently announced that the department is expanding.
Currently, the county partners with local law enforcement agencies but next school year the district’s own force will serve all schools in the district with the exception of Venice, which will continue to be staffed by the Venice Police Department.
The SCSPD currently has the Chief of Police, three sergeants, two regional response officers, and 28 school resource officers. Beginning at the start of the 2019-20 school year they will have three more sergeants, two additional lieutenants, and five regional response officers. Additionally, 15 more school resource officers will be hired, enabling each elementary, middle school and high school to have at least one officer.
"School policing is a situation where we are able to make a difference in a kid's life," Enos said. "When you see a kid that you talked to that was troubled, and then years later they come back and say thank you and you see that they're excelling, I mean that is the reason school resource officers stay in school policing . It's because they make an impact."
According to a news release, the current year’s budget for the School Resource Officer Program, which includes outside contracted services with local law enforcement partners is $5,139,174. Revised estimates with the addition of the SCSPD program equates to $4,697,132. For the 2019-20 school year, there is an additional operating cost savings of more than $40,000 with the School Resource Officer Program fully managed by the SCSPD.