This upcoming school year every public school in Sarasota County School District will have a school resource officer from the district’s police force.
Previously, the sheriff’s office and local police departments helped supply SROs at the schools, but Sarasota County Schools Police Department is hiring 27 new positions so it can fully take over operations. SCSPD’s Chief, Tim Enos, said the hiring process is almost complete.
Venice High and Venice Elementary currently have SROs provided by the Venice Police Department.
VPD Chief Tom Mattmuller said his police department may be stepping out of that role, but won’t be stepping out of the schools.
“Our involvement in the schools will continue in our public and private schools. We’re hoping now to assign our three SROs to the day shift,” Mattmuller said.
He called the move an opportunity, and said he hopes to provide more interaction at school events on the weekends and on evening patrols after SROs go home for the day.
“They are up and running … and absolutely amazing,” Mattmuller said of the school district’s SRO program.
VPD will continue to maintain an office at the high school, he said, to support its Advance and More Than SAD programs that teach kids and educators how to be smart about mental health.
This upcoming school year the Sarasota Schools Police Department, which was created last summer, will have 55 people in it. This includes a chief of police, lieutenants, sergeants, regional response officers and school resource officers.
Every public high school in the district will have two SROs and each public middle and elementary school will have one.
The high schools will receive two SROs because of the volume of students at the schools.
Enos said that although other agencies will no longer supply staff, his team will still work with outside agencies as needed.
“You know, it takes everybody in order to keep these kids safe,” he said. “They bring such exceptional service to the communities that they serve that we want to make sure that we work in harmony in partnership with [other agencies]. Our main goal every single day is that kids come to school and their parents know that they’re going to be safe on campus.”
Along with beefing up the number of officers, SCSPD will also get more cars and equipment to use for the upcoming school year.
This will cost the district about $4.6 million, but Enos said they will actually be saving money by not having to pay outside agencies to supply SROs.
All of the new hires will start in July and go through training before the school year starts.
Gondolier Sun News Editor Greg Giles contributed to this story.