VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. -- The Volusia County Sheriff says school safety is a top priority, but exactly how he will fill all the school resource deputy positions is the question.
- VCSO struggling to fill school-resource positions
- Not enough deputies or officers to fill all schools
- Chitwood said they would need to hire 60 more deputies
The state is requiring law enforcement or armed personnel on every campus.
"There’s no way we can do it. Just to give you an example, we just started a class of 17. It took us eight months to get 17 deputies that are qualified to start into this next class," said Sheriff Mike Chitwood.
Chitwood said it's hard enough trying to fill more than 40 openings the department has right now.
"So basically to fulfill the school bill by hiring full-time law enforcement officers, it’s going to be impossible," Chitwood said.
The state will require a law enforcement presence or armed personnel on every school campus.
But Sheriff Chitwood said they'd need to hire nearly 60 more deputies to be school resource deputies.
"We're looking at almost having to hire 100 deputies," Chitwood said.
Volusia only has 25 out of 78 schools covered with deputies, and other surrounding counties tell Spectrum News 13 they're also struggling to fill those jobs.
The numbers vary per county, like Flagler and Osceola. Some are looking for nine school resource deputes, and some are looking for more than 30.
"We're all going into the same pool trying to go after the same candidates; it's just not going to work," Chitwood said.
One option is hiring retired law enforcement or military to protect the campuses or arming retired people who are working as teachers.
"We're putting out the message to all Volusia County police departments and Volusia County Sheriff's departments -- anybody who is retired and who would like to come back, we're for that," Chitwood said.
Chitwood said many of the retired potentials may not have an updated certification, and in order to get certified, they'd have to go back through deputy and officer training for the state.
The next steps are to send out letters to all retired deputies and retired officers within the county, plus they're running a survey to see who would be interested.
In the meantime, he says they're advertising those positions.
"At the end of the day the most precious resource we have in our community is our teachers and our students, and we have to come together and figure out a way that we can protect them," said Chitwood.
Sheriff Chitwood says there's still a number of reasons why he believes people aren't filling up those positions, including pay and the concern of ambushes on law enforcement.
He's still hoping someone will want to join the department to protect and serve.
Gov. Rick Scott’s office released this statement about the school bill and its requirements:
“The law is clear on what measures school districts can take to increase school safety, which should be their top priority over the summer. The Governor has also been clear that any plan should be approved by local sheriffs and police chiefs.
This year’s budget included $162 million for more school safety officers, and the Governor has committed to redirecting any unused funds from the voluntary Coach Aaron Feis Guardian program for the same goal. The Governor has also stated that he believes sworn law enforcement should be the ones protecting our students.”