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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pinellas school police don't have computer-aided dispatch system

Unlike most police agencies and school districts, the Pinellas County School District doesn't have a computer-aided dispatch system to track police activity in its schools.

That was one interesting point that came out of a recent discussion about a proposal to transfer the school district's remaining 26-member police unit to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. Board members rejected the idea to outsource during a workshop in late June, after district officials effectively kept the proposal hidden from the School Board and the public. 

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri pointed out the lack of a CAD system during the discussion. It was news to the School Board. The Gradebook discussed that problem with the district's acting police chief Rick Stelljes back in April after a public records request for the database came back with an unusual response - the district doesn't have a CAD to create a database of calls for service.

Instead he said the district still uses paper. The paper tickets, which have information about each police call, then go into boxes. 

"We have the tickets, but they're thousands and thousands of them," he said.

Most police departments got CADs in the 1970s, replacing pencil and paper with a computerized system that created a database of police activity. The systems provide a valuable record of what's going on day-to-day in the schools. That information then can be shared with other police agencies to track broader trends, among other things.

As it stands now, Pinellas County Schools has no easily accessible record of its police calls. Gualtieri cited that as a major deficiency, making it difficult for police agencies to communicate about what they're seeing across the county.

Stelljes said a former police officer in the school district created a CAD of sorts about 10 years ago. But at some point that officer left and eventually the remaining police officers realized that the system wasn't really working. Information coming out of it was unreliable. Since becoming acting chief in January, Stelljes has started a new make-shift record of calls. He's hoping to get an actual CAD, but that was put on hold when the former police chief left and some internal discussions started about transferring the unit to the sheriff's office. (Some of these talks started in January. They became more formal in March, but were unknown to the School Board and the community until just prior to the meeting last month.)

The internal police unit covers three middle schools, special education centers and some alternative schools. Floating officers also cover the elementary schools and perform other tasks, such as gang prevention. Contracts with outside agencies, including the sheriff's office, cover the rest of the schools.

[Last modified: Tuesday, July 9, 2013 1:54pm]


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