Sarasota schools police force takes shape

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Starting a police force from the ground up is a big challenge.

"I'm the first employee and with that comes the Herculean task of establishing everything," Sarasota County Schools' new Police Chief Paul Grohowski said. 

Chief Grohowski was hired by the district to head up their new police force. With 22 years of law enforcement experience, he says he's up to the task. 

"Our intent is to work hand-in-hand with our mental health professionals in the school and to prevent the bullying, to stop the victimization of bullying to allow every child to flourish in their school year," he said. 

The chief is in the process of hiring 24 school resource officers and three sergeants.

They will protect elementary schools throughout Sarasota County. Their cars are being outfitted and their badges have arrived. 

Positions have been offered to and accepted by 19 officers, who will start Monday, pending background checks. 

"They are the 'Who's who?' of law enforcement from around both the nation and Florida. We have officers coming in from New York police, Chicago, Baltimore, Massachusetts; you name it. They are coming in," said Chief Grohowski. 

On average, the officers have more than 20 years of experience, but they'll go through additional training and be outfitted with tools to intervene in a crisis situation.

"We don't have a culture. We don't have an agency way of doing things. This is going to be a blend of experiences. I'm bringing men and women here that have a wealth of experience and knowledge that I hope to glean from," said Chief Grohowski. 

The school police force will grow with time. Eventually, officers will be hired to protect all grades from kindergarten to seniors in high school. 

"If I do this right and we fast-forward this model, in a few years we will have a culture of young adults going off into the world that believe, once again, the cops are heroes because they are - truly are," said the chief.