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School resource officers have become a regular sight during the school day

Published: May. 27, 2022 at 5:35 PM EDT
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OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) - 19 children and two adults are dead after an 18-year-old gunman walked into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX. The Uvalde Police Department is facing criticism after admitting there was no school resource officer (SRO) on campus at the time of the shooting.

How would law enforcement respond in north-central Florida?

During the school year of 1969, Miami was the first city in Florida to implement a school resource officer program, according to a 1995 report from the North Carolina Center for the Prevention of School Violence in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice. Three years later, the study shows, the Orlando Police Department started its own pilot program.

The 2018 shooting that took 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, set a precedent for SRO programs in Florida. Shortly after that incident, the state senate passed chapter 1006 which required safe-school officers at each public school.

Schools were directed to establish school resource officer programs, “through a cooperative agreement with law enforcement agencies.” As an SRO, the policy states that officers must complete mental health crisis intervention training, and undergo “criminal background checks, drug testing, and a psychological evaluation.”

Marion County law enforcement hasn’t forgotten a school shooter in Ocala. Sky Bouche is in prison until 2048 after firing a gun at Forest High School in 2018. One person was hurt.

“Our protocol is we respond directly to the shooting, or to the incident,” said Capt. Dennis Joiner, Commander of the Juvenile Division at the Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). He oversees all of the SROs in the county.

There are 58 schools in Marion County. Joiner said there’s at least one police officer or deputy assigned to patrol each school.

Monthly, SROs do Alice drills with schools, and annually officers and deputies participate in active shooter training.

“The SROs have a huge responsibility and each one of them take that responsibility very seriously. They don’t wait for backup,” he said. “They have an extreme amount of responsibility associated with that position. There’s a lot of responsibility associated with working with children.”

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