Sarasota schools scramble to comply with school security law

- Every public school in Florida must have armed protection when kids go back to school thanks to a new law signed this year by Governor Rick Scott. 

For Sarasota County, the clock is ticking, so the district decided to create its own internal police department instead of relying on the sheriff and police.

Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight didn't hold back during a meeting on the topic Tuesday.

"You can hire anybody and put them in a uniform and call them a cop but are you going to get the quality that you have with your police and sheriff's department?" he asked. 

His words were directed at the school district's plan to create its own police force by August 13. 

"It takes me 18 months to get a police officer hired, trained and fully out on the street," said Chief Bernadette DiPino. 

Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino and North Port Interim Chief Chris Morales backed the Sheriff's concerns. 

"You just can't stick any deputy [or] any officer in there. You've got to make sure they are well vetted," said Chief Morales. 

However, the district has to move fast to hire, train, and equip more than 20 officers. 

The new law requires armed protection in every public school and the Sarasota County School district decided to build its own force. 

If the August 13 deadline isn't met, the sheriff and police chiefs will have to step in and they're already stretched thin. 

"If I have to backfill, I'm pulling deputies out of zones and communities and neighborhoods and leaving them unstaffed," said Sheriff Knight. 

The district expects to lean on the sheriff and police chiefs when the school year begins. As it builds its own internal police force, the district will take over in elementary schools first and later the middle and high schools. 

Eventually, they'll be in every school in the district. 

"Let's plan for you to be in those schools on August 13 and how we over time assume responsibility for those schools," said Superintendent Todd Bowden. 

The plan still concerns the sheriff and chiefs. 

"So you are confident they'll be trained and field trained so when my deputies come on the campus in a critical situation they will be ready to go?" asked Sheriff Knight. 

"Michael Andres responded that was the goal.

"Yes? Good. That's all I needed to hear," Knight responded.

The Sarasota County School District said it is close to hiring a police chief. They expect to make that announcement within a week. 

In a week they will begin interviewing and hiring officers for their school police force. 

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