Clay County sheriff won't assign rookie officers to schools

Sheriff Darryl Daniels says he needs $4.5 million to hire 36 deputies

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GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – After telling the Clay County Commission Tuesday that he'll need an additional $4.5 million to hire 36 new deputies so a sworn school resource deputy can be assigned to every public school, Sheriff Darryl Daniels said the new deputies will fill the patrol duties of more experienced ones he'll assign to protect students.

Daniels said he was hesitant to put brand-new deputies directly into schools, instead saying it was his preference to have seasoned deputies in the schools. He said the exception would be if the new deputy had previous experience as a school resource officer. 

The sheriff said the additional manpower is essential because he can’t “rob Peter to pay Paul," and leave a shortage of deputies on patrol in Clay County. But his decision means that 20 percent of 275 sworn deputies in the department would be either new to law enforcement or new to the county.

Daniels told the board the money to hire additional deputies was needed soon because of the new law requiring a school resource officer in every school by August, the start of the 2018-2019 school year. That gives his department less than four months to find, hire and train new deputies.

"I have to hire at least 30 individuals this month. And in June, 18 individuals to get the 48 deputies if we are going to go the route of putting a school resource officer in every school," Daniels told the board Tuesday afternoon.

There are currently eight school resource officers -- one at each high school and one at Bannerman Learning Center. There are also two sergeants, one lieutenant and one detective in a juvenile crime unit at Orange Park High School.

The Clay County School Board has already decided it does not want "guardians" -- trained school employees -- to carry guns in its schools. The board wants deputies to protect students.

Last month, Superintendent of Schools Addison Davis said it would cost $15 million to put a full-time deputy at every school in addition to "school hardening" measures. The state bill allocated money for extra security to each county, but the budget provides only $2.5 million to Clay County for that purpose.

Davis told commissioners he supports the sheriff's budget request, saying the school district already has a $3 million deficit. 

For decades, Clay County school leadership has repeatedly asked for more funding from the county and taxpayers due to rapid growth. In 2003, Clay County voters rejected a half-cent sales tax increase that would have gone directly to the school district. 

On Wednesday, Clay County Commission Chairman Gavin Rollins told News4Jax that the money for the additional deputies will be found, despite already pulling nearly $12 million from county reserves in the current budget year due to costs incurred after Hurricane Irma.