FDLE gives school district green light to form its own police force

Meanwhile, sheriff pulls plan to keep deputies in schools from commission agenda

By Corley Peel - Reporter

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. - Clay County School Board Chairwoman Carol Studdard told News4Jax Tuesday that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has given the school district approval to form its own police department, which means the district can now begin the process of posting jobs. 

Word of the development in the formation of the police force came as many parents voiced their displeasure with that idea at the Clay County Board of County Commissioners meeting. 

Just hours before the meeting, Sheriff Darryl Daniels announced he removed his plan to keep his deputies in schools from the meeting agenda. On March 4, Daniels unveiled the proposal after the Clay County School Board voted in favor of forming a school police department to replace deputies who are already working as school resource officers. 

The Clay County Sheriff's Office posted Tuesday morning on Facebook that the sheriff removed the plan, which was submitted to school board members and the superintendent, from the County Commission meeting because there was no interest shown from most members.

"Considering that this proposition/plan was not acted upon by the school board, there is nothing to gain by asking the BCC for additional funding, until such time that the school board changes their current decision," the Facebook post reads, in part. 

Shortly after Daniels' announcement, Superintendent Addison Davis tweeted a statement, saying he was "excited about the possibility of the Board of County Commissioners reviewing the financial structures presented by the Sheriff's Office," but added school officials are ready to form a trained police department.

Though the sheriff withdrew his plan from the meeting agenda and no action was taken by commissioners, parents were still able to share their thoughts on the district's police department, which would consist of 47 members, during the public comment portion of the meeting. 

"At this point, I don’t think as a citizen or even as a parent we’re saying it’s a hard no on the school board having their own police department," parent Misty Mason said. "Our main concern right now is the lack of time that these people are going to have in training in order to protect our kids.”

Parents said they also feel the FDLE jumped the gun by approving the district's police department. 

"I believe they’re allowing something to move forward without actually sitting down and looking at the whole picture," Mason said.

“I think that it's way too fast and, first of all, they never even asked the citizens of Clay County, the parents of these kids in these schools, what we wanted and how we felt," parent Kimberly Castell said. “We’re not stopping. This is just a get up right here. We will go to Washington if we need to.”

Parents also called for the district to be defunded because they feel they are being double taxed with the internal police department.

"Now they're asking for additional taxation," Mason said. "Where is all this money? That's another thing we're asking for is transparency. Where is our money being spent?"

They were no parents at the meeting who voiced support for the district forming its own police department. 

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