New plan guarantees an armed first responder at every Hillsborough County school

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FLA - Starting this fall every single school in Hillsborough County will have a full-time armed first responder. 

Currently every high school and middle school has either a full-time deputy or a full-time police officer. The plan is to expand the district's school security force to comply with the new public safety law, which requires that every school have an armed and trained first responder. 

"And if this allows every family to feel just that much more confident that their child is getting a safe environment and a great education, then it's worth every penny," Superintendent Jeff Eakins said.

The superintendent said under the new law the state increased its budget for school security by about $6 million. The additional money will be used to hire the 176 positions they need to cover their elementary schools and charter schools with a full-time armed first responder . The district will hire those positions.

"I like the background checks that they do and I like the psychological testing and I like the accountability," Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said. 

The sheriff's office will offer those school security officers additional training.

"Our ideal candidate is anyone who puts the safety of our children at the forefront," Sheriff Chronister said.

Until every position is hired, the sheriff's office and local police departments promised to assign a deputy or officer to a school that needs one full-time armed responder until a school security officer takes over. Then those deputies or police officers will return to their normal duties. The sheriff does not believe it will impact public safety. 

"We will continue to manage out resources that way to make sure public safety here in Hillsborough County is not affected," Sheriff Chronister said. 

Currently, Officer David-Weaver Rogers patrols 5 elementary schools in the county. Under the new plan, he will only be responsible for one school. 

“This will be more effective because when you’re just at one school you get to know the parents, you get to know the kids, you even get to know their grandparents," Officer Weaver-Rogers said.

Officer Weaver-Rogers likes the plan because he can focus his attention on one school.

“It’d be a bigger value to the taxpayer knowing that 'hey you got somebody here' instead of rolling the dice between 5 schools," Officer Weaver-Rogers said.

District officials hope to start training school security officers as early as this summer.

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