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Cape to hire 23 officers for schools 

May 15, 2018
Pine Island Eagle

To comply with new state school safety mandates, the city of Cape Coral will hire 23 police officers to cover district and city charter campuses.

Start-up costs are expected to be about $2.2 million total for personnel, equipment and vehicles for this budget year and next, with recurring costs expected to be about $737,000 annually after that.

The Lee County School District will pay a 50 percent share of the personnel cost for 22 officers and one sergeant up to $50,000 per SRO, using Safe School Allocation funds.

Cape Coral City Council's action on Monday for the 2018-19 school year comes in the wake of the Lee County Board of County Commissioners' decision to provide SRO funding for public schools in unincorporated areas only. Those resource officers are provided by the Lee County Sheriff's Office, which bumped up its presence on all public school campuses throughout Lee County after Gov. Rick Scott signed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act in March which requires all schools to have at least one SRO on duty.

The city of Cape Coral had an SRO program prior to severe budgetary cutbacks made during the real estate collapse. A return to a city-run program eliminated in 2010, as opposed to Sheriff's Office-provided personnel, has advantages, Councilmember Rick Williams said.

"It's better to have our police in schools so we can build relationships. I was excited about this even before I came onto council," he said. "Our top charge is public safety; if we're required, we have to do it. Easiest bill I've ever had."

CCPD officials confirmed it is a mandate, not an option.

"We got in very early in talking to the school district to assist in any way possible. We're at a point where we have to provide an officer, not want to," said Dana Coston, police spokesperson. "Chief David Newlan has made no secret that his goal was to have Cape Coral officers protecting Cape Coral students. We were hoping for a more phased roll-out but circumstances are what they are."

City and district officials said they are on the same page.

"The safety of our children is our No. 1 priority and this is a community effort," said School Superintendent Greg Adkins, whose children have attended Cape Coral schools.

Council approved the funding of the 23 police vehicles, $1.2 million, for this fiscal year before more expensive newer models come out in the fall.

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