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.
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.
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.
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.
Adding those three officers will cost the city $342,000 in the first year, and $126,000 annually after that.
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@example.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.