Pinellas Sheriff's Office turns to bonuses to lure school resource deputies

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. -- Recruitment rush! Law enforcement agencies across the state are now competing over new hires! Police and sheriff's offices across Florida are scrambling to hire school resource officers by July 1 to comply with new state school safety mandates. 

That means big competition for agencies to obtain SROs. Pinellas County is turning to bonuses to lure deputies in their direction. 

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office will start pay for school resource officers at $46,410 with increases in the following years you remain employed. 

The deputies will serve grades K-12 be required to work Monday through Friday. Deputies will be provided a take home vehicle. 

If you have three or more years of law enforcement experience, you are eligible to receive a $3,000 signing bonus. There's an additional bonus for relocating. Deputies coming from a local county (Hillsborough, Manatee or Pasco) can receive an extra $500. Deputies coming from other parts of the state may receive $1,500 and those coming from another state may receive $3,0000.

The school resource deputy positions do require you to be 21 years of age and certified by the Florida Criminal Just Standards and Training Commission.

Pinellas County must fill these positions by July 1, 2018. You can apply online by visiting www.pcsoweb.com.

Competition is steep among agencies to recruit new SROs. A recent public safety job fair at St. Pete college attracted nearly 30 law enforcement agencies from across the state. Typically, the same job fair only attracts a handful of local agencies. 

While St. Pete Police Department does not plan to hire outside their agency for new SROs, and instead will shuffle officers, ABC Action News spoke with a school resource officer at St. Pete High School who says his career as an SRO has been incredibly rewarding.

Officer Richard Berthelot makes a lasting impression every day in the halls of St Pete High School. “I have kids that come in as freshman and people say things like that kid will never make it, but then something magical happens. 4 years later that kid graduates, and he or she says to me 'you changed my life!'”

Officer Berthelot says he's honored to help guide young lives and knows he’d be there to protect the kids if they were ever in danger. "They’re my kids! They mean a lot to me," he exclaimed while walking through the cafeteria at St. Pete High School. 

Union president George Lofton says with thousands of openings, agencies are in a mad dash to get school resource officers in place by July 1st. “Right now we’re in unchartered waters. I've never seen such a large scale hiring event like this in the law enforcement community in the 28 years I’ve been involved," Lofton explained.

He says it's a good time to be in law enforcement. "If you’re looking to be a police officer now is the opportunity," Lofton added.

Officer Berthelot says the real benefit isn’t the money or the signing bonuses, it’s knowing the impact you’ll have on thousands of kids. “The kids sometimes come back after they graduate, and they go 'That’s Officer Berthelot! He changed my life! That’s priceless," he added.

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