New resource officer mandate proves difficult for school budgets

- The Hillsborough County school district released its plan on Thursday to ramp up security for the next school year in response to new a new state law requiring armed security in every school.

Superintendent Jeff Eakins said the district will hire about 100 security officers for the elementary schools that are currently not staffed with guards; all of the county's middle and high schools already have security.

Eakins believes the district is ahead of the curve because it's had a police force for nearly 50 years that employs about 120 armed guards.

"For over 40 years we have had this security force in place in Hillsborough County. We've been very proactive," the superintendent said. "Our security staff already trained with the sheriff's office. [The sheriff] is aware of the talent and a lot of that talent comes from former police officers in local communities, military with MacDill."

The new state requirements were passed by lawmakers following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School earlier this year.

During a news conference Thursday morning, Eakins was joined by Sheriff Chad Chronister and the heads of other law enforcement agencies in Hillsborough County.

The district is partnering with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Tampa Police Department and other agencies to make sure the requirement is met when students go back to school at the end of the summer. Deputies and officers will temporarily staff many of the elementary schools until the new guards are ready to take over.

"At the sheriff's office, we are going to pull our manpower from non-essential personnel. So it won't be anyone that works at each of the five patrol districts," Chronister explained, adding it will take several months to properly train the new security officers. "They'll get 132 hours of training. A lot of it will be surrounding active shooter, a lot of it around de-escalation."

Eakins said this collaboration is the most cost-efficient solution and allows the district to fall within the $6 million it will receive from the state to increase school safety.

The new security officers will not be sworn law enforcement, meaning they won't be uniformed police or deputies and they won't able to make arrests. Eakins said, had the district chose to put sworn law enforcement in schools, it could have cost the district about $12 million.

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