Clay County Public Schools to establish a police force

To comply with a Florida law that requires security in all schools, the Clay County School District is looking to establish their own police force- and in only a few months.

Through the last school year, the District relied on the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, the Green Cove Springs Police Department, and the Orange Park Police Department to get the job done, as well as “Guardians” who were certified through CCSO. The plan that was approved Thursday night by the School Board would continue the partnership with GCSPD and OPPD, but move away from CCSO, in favor of their own employees.

The District has now committed to creating their own law enforcement agency by hiring 47 staff members in the next few months, including a Chief, two Lieutenants, four Sergeants, 36 School Resource Officers, three Relief SRO’s, and one Detective. GCSPD would work Charles E. Bennett Elementary and Green Cove Springs Junior High, OPPD would work Grove Park Elementary, Orange Park Elementary, and Orange Park Junior High, and the remaining 36 schools would fall under the new SROs. 

In the first year, this program is expected to cost just over $6.1 million. Year 2 is projected around $4.2 million. The District says revenue from a recent voter-approved school security tax will be put toward those bills.

Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels says he doesn’t think this plan was though through. He says he would have wanted to see then District partner with CCSO through this planning process, and he doesn’t believe they’re thinking about the non-stop coverage needed to fully serve the jurisdiction and cover the investigative side of the job.

“That said, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office won’t let the school board fail, because allowing them to fail will be all of us failing our children,” Daniels says.

Superintendent Addison Davis says his focus now is implementing the plan that the School Board approved, with the goal of ensuring all students, faculty, and staff are safe.