In a change of plans for St. Petersburg, Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Tuesday that the city will be joining a growing list of municipalities unwilling to provide more resource officers to the Pinellas County School District.
- Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, City of Largo also declined district's request
- City will fill three of the requested 28 positions
- District will hire armed security officers for schools with no SROs
"While the City of St. Petersburg already has officers at its high school and middle schools, we will not be supplying additional officers to the remaining elementary schools,” Kriseman said at a news conference Tuesday morning.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and the City of Largo have also declined the district’s request to provide more resource officers. The request came as part of its effort to comply with the new state mandate requiring armed security at all public schools.
Gov. Rick Scott signed off on the bill following the school shooting in Parkland, but critics say is gives school districts no time to phase in more officers.
"If we really want to get right down to it, you have a legislature and a governor who signed a bill that didn't provide the funding,” Kriseman said. “It's an unfunded mandate."
Currently, St. Petersburg spends about $800,000 a year for 13 school officers. The school district requested an additional 28 officers, which officials estimate would cost the city $3.2 million.
Instead, Police Chief Anthony Holloway said his department will fill just three of the requested positions. Those officers will be added to staff at St. Petersburg High School and North East High School.
Holloway assured the public that should there be an emergency, officers patrolling the city will be ready to respond.
"We can respond to any place in the city within five minutes,” Holloway said. “So if there is an incident at a school we will be there within five minutes."
The Pinellas County School District decided against the Guardian program option within the new state law.
Due to the funding challenges in meeting the law's mandate, the district confirmed it will be hiring armed security officers for schools that do not currently have resource officers as a temporary measure while it works to increase its police force.