Sarasota County school police force may serve as model for future departments
SARASOTA, Fla. (FOX 13) - With one week until the start of school, the Sarasota County Schools Police Department is gearing up.
"My wife is a teacher. I have kids in school. My sister is a principal. I basically come from a family of teachers," said first-year Officer Justin Woodworth.
Last year hew as part of the first guardian program in Pinellas County. Before that, he worked as an investigator with the Hillsborough County Sheriff Office and Tampa Police Department.
"I spent so many years trying to put a stop to crime. By the time people got to me, it was too late. They were either going to jail or prison. With this job, I'm still able to be an officer but at the same time I can be a mentor, I can hopefully help guide these students in a way that might prevent them from going down that road," he said.
For the last month, he's been in training.
"Five weeks have been jam-packed. Everything from learning the statutes, learning critical intervention skills, learning just what it's like to be in the schools," said Officer Woodworth.
It's the first year school police will be on every public campus in Sarasota County. Two will be stationed at every high school and one at every middle and elementary school. Including support staff, the department has 87 hires in their department.
"Part of being a school resource officer is being a community member that is able to provide services, that is able to help families," said Chief Tim Enos.
Sarasota was the third in the state to create its own police department, following Miami-Dade and Palm Beach. Clay County is working on its department.
Sarasota County Schools Police Department Chief Tim Enos says he hopes his department will become a model for others.
"We want to use every single tool available to be able to prevent that conflict or to be able to prevent something tragic from happening," he said.