A community effort to get a police officer at every school in Palm Beach County is fostering a safer and stronger community in and out of classrooms, according to Palm Beach County School District Police Chief Frank Kitzerow.
"It’s really going to serve to strengthen that relationship between the police and communities," Chief Kitzerow said.
Thirteen area police departments reassigned officers to fill in at schools temporarily, in order to help Palm Beach County School District meet the new law requiring an officer in every school.
“Them being in the school with us, they have a greater understanding of what we do," Kitzerow said. "We have a greater understanding of them.”
Kitzerow is working to hire more officers for his department in order to relieve these officers helping out from area departments. However, the connection between school police and local police will continue.
“We’re working to eliminate those silos where you have a school police officer, local officer just working for one school and not having good situational awareness around them, what’s happening in the communities," Kitzerow said.
School police officers gained the ability to use a data sharing system that shows what has gone on in other area departments.
“We can access the records management systems for the jurisdictions around the schools, so now we really know what’s happening with us and how we fit into the community," Kitzerow said.
As for hiring, Kitzerow said he brought on 25 officers in the past two months and is finalizing nine more. He has 50 more people starting the background process. The goal is to hire 75 new officers in total.
"Ultimately, I would love to see the abilities to put one police officer for every thousand students for example," he said. "I know that’s a ratio the [Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission] is talking about but we’re not there yet."