Duval school police director confident in new school safety assistant program

107 employees to be armed at elementary schools beginning next school year

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The director of the Duval County School Police Department expressed confidence in the new school safety assistant program, which will hire and train 107 new employees who will be armed at elementary schools beginning next school year.

Director Micheal Edwards sat down Thursday with News4Jax to talk more about the plan that the Duval County School Board passed 6-1 during its meeting Tuesday evening. 

Elementary schools, such as Parkwood Heights, have school resource officers who check in each day, but the schools don't have someone armed on campus full-time.

That will change Aug. 13.

Inside Edwards' office is the timeline of events for hiring 107 school safety assistants.

"The job went live on our site yesterday, late yesterday," Edwards said Thursday afternoon. "As of 15 to 20 minutes ago ,we’ve already had approximately 20 people to apply so that’s very good in such short notice."

A school safety assistant is required by Florida law to have 144 hours of training.

Edwards said Duval County's school safety assistants will receive more than that -- 144 hours of training from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and 16 hours from his department. 

Timeline:

May 5: Military Veterans Job Fair at TPC Sawgrass 
May 7: New Employee Orientation 
May 9: School Safety Assistant (SSA) Job Fair at Prime Osborn
May 12: SSA Information Session at Duval County School Police (DCSP) Headquarters 
May 19: SSA Information Session at DCSP Headquarters 
May 26: SSA Information Session at DCSP Headquarters 
June 8: SSA Job Fair at Prime Osborn 
June 18: 1st-day training SSA (1st class)
July 9: 1st-Day Training SSA (2nd class)
July 30:1st-Day Training SSA (3rd class)
Aug. 6-10: Pre-school Training SROs and SSAs
Aug. 13: 1st Day of School

He also said they’ll undergo 40 additional hours of training the week before school starts, giving them at least 200 hours of training before their first day.

School safety assistants will not be issued a department car, but they will get other equipment that school resource offices have, including a new uniform, a gun and a bulletproof vest. 

Their uniforms will be tan-colored, which Edwards said he specifically wanted to be different from the colors of uniforms that Jacksonville police and school resource officers wear. 

School safety assistants will also have distinct badges that will go on the uniforms. 

"If there is an active assailant situation, these individuals will be in a position to be able to, first of all, confront that individual and then be able to stop the threat and illuminates this individual from continuing to cause any harm or injuries," Edwards said. "So that's the No. 1 function, for those individuals to be there to be able to prevent situations like from happening, and if it does happen, to be able to immediately confront those individuals."

School safety assistants will also be responsible for:

  • Making sure gates and doors are locked.
  • Participating in all drills, including active shooter and fire drills.
  • Helping to administer student searches.

Edwards said it will be a busy couple of months, and his department is ready for and confident in the process.

The school district and Edwards' department are now hiring for the positions. They're especially looking for people with military or law enforcement backgrounds.

Applicants must be at least 21, have or be able to obtain a concealed weapons permit, and have a valid Florida driver's license. 

The first career fair will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at TPC Sawgrass. 

Click here to learn more and to apply online.

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