The Palm Beach County School District Police Chief could be out of his job as chief, if proposed changes by the district's new superintendent are approved.
Contact 5 obtained an email written by current Police Chief Lawrence Leon, sent to all police staff on April 1, where Leon tells fellow officers that the new superintendent, Donald Fennoy is rewriting his (the chief's) job description.
In the email, Leon says he was told on March 29, that the chief position will now be "two levels higher, and be a cabinet position" reporting to the superintendent. Leon added the district "has reached out to organizations to have this position advertised throughout the nation."
Leon continued to tell staff "I was then told I could apply for the position. This means technically I will not get reappointed in my position. If I do not get selected, I was then told that I will have a position in another capacity for as long as I want to stay with the district but not as the same capacity."
In the email, Leon says the chief of HR started the conversation off by saying, "We wanted to bring this to you before you heard this through the rumor mill."
The school district says HR is currently reviewing the job description for Chief of Police, and if any modifications to the job description are made, they would have to go to the Board for approval. The candidate also would have to be approved by the Board as well.
When asked for a statement, the Palm Beach County School District provided the memo below, sent to School Board members from Superintendent Fennoy, a day after Leon was told about the new plan.
It says "Under the Governor's new safety legislation, the workforce of the District's School Police Department will nearly double in the next year.
To ensure we have the most comprehensive leadership in place to lead one of the largest School Police Departments in the country and over $40 million of school security improvements, I have directed Human Resources to reclassify the position and utilize a firm specialized in conducting law enforcement searches to identify the best individual to fill the role as Chief of School Police. This process will be open to external and internal applicants.
Student safety and well-being has always been a paramount priority for our District. It is important to align civilian and sworn leadership roles and responsibilities to the complexities of the work ahead of us to secure our campuses and ensure a safe learning environment. I will update you with a timeline for this process once finalized."
Leon's email is below:
From: Lawrence Leon < email@example.com >
Date: April 1, 2018 at 12:07:22 PM EDT
To: "School Police, (Everyone)" < firstname.lastname@example.org >
Subject: Current events
I want to take this time to tell you about a situation that is affecting only me at this time. I know some of you have already heard of this through the grapevine. I have also received calls from several board members on this as well.
On Thursday 3/29, I was asked to attend a meeting in the new COO Wanda Paul 's office. Upon my arrival, the Chief of HR Dr. LaCava, and the Compensation specialist Mark Mitchell also entered the office.
Dr. LaCava started the conversation off by saying "We wanted to bring this to you before you heard this through the rumour mill".
He then said the Superintendent is rewriting the job description for the Chief if Police that will be two levels higher and be a cabinet position reporting to him. They have reached out to organizations to have this advertised throughout the nation.
I was then told I could apply for the position. This means technically I will not get reappointed in my position.
If I do not get selected I was then told that I will have a position in another capacity for as long as I want to stay with the District but not as the same capacity.
I am very proud of each and everyone of you. The job that you do to ensure the safety and security for the students and staff.
We have accomplished alot since I started.
Our arrests rates are down, the recidivism rate with the students in the youth court program is phenomenal.
The officers in the schools who are making an impact everyday with the relationships you make with the students, teaching GREAT, or who thought we would be involved with the criminal justice academies in the schools.
The revitalization of our K-9 programs by Ofc. Ferland and his ability to get schools to fund our dogs and the impact they make in the schools.
And who would think we would have motorcycles and have them visible in the schools, educating the parents about driving, in the classroom talking about the laser or radar.
The detective bureau moving forward and getting the individual who was making bomb threats, or bringing back a runaway who was in Mexico, to being involved with charging bookkeeper, and there is more.
Security systems for all they have done with upgrading the cameras, adding door access, and making sure the campuses are secure.
All of our support staff, secretarial, records, dispatch, public records, budget staff. You guys have done a tremendous job.
The Mike's for keeping all of our IT stuff, working. Now they will be working hard on the new CAD system, and the new laptops you will be getting.
The front desk and fingerprint staff who are processing the visitors to the DAC, and fingerprinting new employees as they get ready to start working for the district.
The command staff and sergeants and the job you do supervising the officers.
We still have alot of work ahead of us, we have reaccreditation that we need to achieve.( After all I am one of the Commissioner).
I do not know where this is going, all I know is that you need to continue to do the outstanding jobs that you are doing.