CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – The FBI, in addition to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, has given approval to the Clay County School Board to move forward with the formation of its own police department, including the hiring of officers.
The school district announced Monday that it has been issued an Originating Agency Identification Number, which allows for the development of the Clay County School Board Police Department and grants full access to online state and national crime databases (the Florida Crime Information Center and the National Crime Information Center).
With the approval, the district has begun hiring police officers to fill positions at all 42 schools, including additional leadership positions. Those interested in applying must have a high school or GED diploma, be at least 21 years old, maintain a Florida Law Enforcement Certification, have a minimum of two years' experience in law enforcement as a sworn officer, have a valid Florida driver's license, and have a history of safe driving. The applications can be found at oneclay.net.
Superintendent Addison Davis will also be hosting several meetings with Lt. Kenneth Wagner, a 20-year veteran of the Clay County Sheriff's Office whom Davis has recommended to serve as chief of the new police department, to talk to parents, students, staff and community members about the formation of the new department, the timeline and the expectations.
Below is the schedule of Listen and Learn community meetings:
|March 28||Fleming Island High School||6 p.m.|
|April 1||Oakleaf High School||6 p.m.|
|April 8||Keystone Junior/Senior High School||6 p.m.|
|April 9||Orange Park High School||6 p.m.|
|April 15||Clay High School||6 p.m.|
|April 16||Middleburg High School (includes Ridgeview High School community)||6 p.m.|
The formation of the school police force has been a divisive issue in Clay County, with Sheriff Darryl Daniels trying to offer a last-minute compromise to keep the Clay County Sheriff’s Office in charge of security and some parents voicing opposition.
"I am not really sure what that's going to solve and it's going to cost the taxpayers more money," said an unnamed Clay County resident who's a father and grandfather. "It's an important issue, but I am not sure that's the solution."
News4Jax also spoke on Monday with other Clay County residents who said they support the formation of the police department.
"Safety is of my main concern. I have one go to W.E. Cherry (Elementary School) and I have one that goes to S. Bryan (Jennings Elementary School)," said Clay County father Michael Vernon. "A police officer is better than a teacher because they are more trained and more skilled going into a situation."
A Clay County resident named Nancy also thinks it is a good idea.
"We've had a lot of problems in the state of Florida with schools -- very sad," she said. "The schools need to have a professional with a gun. I suppose they will have to carry guns versus teachers doing it. I think we need the professional."
As for whether the new police department's formation will go smoothly, the sheriff has said he will work with, and has had conversations with, Wagner. And while there won't be deputies on campus, and perhaps there will be some strained feelings, the sheriff said his deputies will always be there to assist if needed. The school district has also partnered with the Orange Park and Green Cove Springs police departments.