Friday, May 25, 2018
  • Bay Buzz
  • From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

St. Petersburg will no longer put officers in elementary schools

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Tuesday morning that the city has reversed course on its school security plan and will no longer take police officers off the streets to serve in elementary schools.

A new state law requires armed guards in every public school. The Legislature adopted the requirement in the aftermath of the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland. Kriseman and Police Chief Tony Holloway had previously said 25 officers would be reassigned from community service officer positions and the gang unit to meet that legal requirement.

But city leaders said Tuesday that the cost and logistics of such a drastic move are too much to bear. They also don't want to disrupt the relationship between the community and their assigned officers.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Pinellas commissioners won't pay for more deputies in schools

The announcement marked a shift in policy that aligns St. Petersburg with decisions recently made by the Pinellas County Commission and the Largo City Commission to place that responsibility onto the school district.

Instead, the Pinellas County school district will hire designated security guards for some positions.

Superintendent Michael Grego said Friday that the district is pursuing what he called a "stop-gap measure" to comply with the new state mandate by the start of the next school year while giving the district time to dramatically expand its own police department.

School Board members will vote on the plan at a special meeting on May 22.

JOHN ROMANO: Pinellas to dramatically expand school district's police force

Kriseman criticized state lawmakers for pushing the financial and logistical burden of expanding school security onto local jurisdictions without giving them the resources to comply with the new law.

"You have a Legislature and a governor that signed a bill that didn't provide the funding," Kriseman said. "It's an unfunded mandate."

In response to St. Petersburg's announcement, the office of Gov. Rick Scott issued this statement:

"There is absolutely no reason as to why the Pinellas County School District should not put officers in every school," spokesman McKinley Lewis said. "The Mayor should focus on working with the Pinellas County School District and local leaders on ways to prioritize school safety instead of criticizing an important law and hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding."

In addition to having to re-shuffle his force, Holloway also pointed to the heavy financial toll of the city's old plan. The cost of providing 25 officers to staff local elementary schools would exceed $3 million including salary, pension, vehicles and equipment.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: How will St. Petersburg staff cops in schools? By taking them off the streets

Some elements of the city’s school security plan will remain in place: The city will provide two additional officers to St. Petersburg High School and Northeast High School, along with a third “floater” officer who would move between schools.Thirteen police officers are already in place at the city’s middle and high schools. The new state law requires schools with more than 1,500 students to have two armed guards.

Adding those three officers will cost the city $342,000 in the first year, and $126,000 annually after that.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: School security not law enforcement's problem, Florida Sheriff's Association says

Another reason to reverse course, the mayor said, was that he didn't want to jeopardize the relationship between the neighborhoods and the officers.

"The relationship between the community and the police department is as good as it's ever been," Kriseman said.

Contact Caitlin Johnston at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.

Comments
David Straz releases new video for mayor

David Straz releases new video for mayor

Updated: 7 hours ago
Tampa Bay mourns a ‘genuine’ leader: John Morroni dies at age 63

Tampa Bay mourns a ‘genuine’ leader: John Morroni dies at age 63

Longtime Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni died Sunday night while fighting his third battle against cancer.He was 63.As news of Mr. Morroni's death spread, tributes poured in from across the region and Washington, D.C. Dozens of friends penn...
Published: 05/21/18
Jane Castor kicks off mayoral run: ‘We are Tampa Strong’

Jane Castor kicks off mayoral run: ‘We are Tampa Strong’

TAMPA — Jane Castor wants the city to know it’s strong, she’s strong and that she’ll be the strong mayor that Tampa needs.The former police chief kicked off her mayoral campaign at the Columbia restaurant in Ybor Cit...
Published: 05/17/18
Former St. Petersburg Mayor Don Jones dies at age 92

Former St. Petersburg Mayor Don Jones dies at age 92

ST. PETERSBURG — Former Pinellas County Commissioner and St. Petersburg Mayor Don Jones died Wednesday. He was 92.Jones served on the City Council from 1963-67 and then served as mayor from 1967-1969. Jones  held office during a time ...
Published: 05/17/18
Council approves solar canopy for parking at St. Pete pier district

Council approves solar canopy for parking at St. Pete pier district

ST. PETERSBURG – City Council voted Thursday to enter into a lease with Duke Energy Florida to build covered parking out of solar panels at the new Pier District.The project will provide 100 covered parking spaces with a roof made of solar pane...
Published: 05/17/18
Need dirt for that Rocky Point dredge and fill? The Florida State Fair is at your service

Need dirt for that Rocky Point dredge and fill? The Florida State Fair is at your service

A plan to fill in a patch of open water in Tampa Bay gained a preliminary green light this week, but many more steps remain before a lagoon in Rocky Point turns from water into land for expensive town homes.Prime Companies, an Albany, New York-area d...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
St. Petersburg will no longer put officers in elementary schools

St. Petersburg will no longer put officers in elementary schools

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Tuesday morning that the city has reversed course on its school security plan and will no longer take police officers off the streets to serve in elementary schools.A new state law requires armed g...
Published: 05/15/18
Did Jane Castor flub her initial campaign filings? Nope, says her campaign.

Did Jane Castor flub her initial campaign filings? Nope, says her campaign.

Jane Castor has a campaign website in her run to replace term-limited Bob Buckhorn as Tampa's next mayor.Remember that as we slip beneath the murk of Florida political campaign finance law and the political shenanigans that occur each ...
Published: 05/14/18
Charlie Miranda may target seat held by fellow Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco

Charlie Miranda may target seat held by fellow Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco

Guido Maniscalco filed for re-election in District 6 Thursday.For now, he's the only candidate for the district that includes West Tampa, Westshore and Seminole Heights.That political solitude may not last long.His Tampa City Council colleague, Charl...
Updated one month ago
Jacob decides against joining Tampa’s mayor race

Jacob decides against joining Tampa’s mayor race

The field is already crowded in the race to replace term-limited Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.Retired banker and philanthropist David Straz threw his hat into the ring this week, joining former police chief Jane Castor, council members Harry Cohen a...
Updated one month ago