Okaloosa Co. Sheriff SRO Unit Earns "Agency of the Year" Award

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OKALOOSA COUNTY-- From safety and security, to mentoring and leadership development, Okaloosa County School Resource Officers spend each and every day making sure the kids and community in the county feel safe.

"Schools are a microcosm of our society, and everything that happens in our society happens in our schools. Whether it is child abuse, child neglect, custody issues, court orders, sexual offenders, drugs and gangs--that is all happening in our schools," Okaloosa Co. Sheriff Larry Ashley said. "They are so much more than just waiting on the mad-gunman to enter the classroom, they are mentors."

Recently the entire unit was recognized as SRO role models for the entire state of Florida.

Sheriff Ashley says it comes down to their extensive training.

"We put you through our own training program, which involves elementary, middle and high schools, to learn," Major Arnold Brown, of the Investigation Bureau, said. "There is a difference between a high school and an elementary school, you work with the students different, the administration is different, and the parents are different.

The work for these deputies doesn't stop when the last school bell rings.

Sheriff officials say the program works so well, because the officers dedicate their time to after school activities.

"I've seen it grown to where you aren't just the security guard in the school anymore. I mean, our guys go through tactical training, they go through learning to respond to an active shooter," Arnold said.

Sheriff officials hope the unit will continue with its successful program, and that the Okaloosa County unit will be a model for other similar agencies.

Out of the Okaloosa County Sheriff offices $30 million budget, $3 million goes towards the program.

The award ceremony will be held Monday morning in Dayton Beach.