Okaloosa Sheriff Puts SRO's in Elementary Schools

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Residents in Okaloosa County may find themselves spending more time getting through security at the courthouse or getting work done through the sheriff's office due to changes put in place by Sheriff Larry Ashley.

Monday, 26 deputies were taken off of their normal duty, ranging from traffic to courthouse security to be put in elementary schools to work as school resource officers. For officials at schools, the move is one that has been welcomed.

"The first day, Monday, when we had our resource officer, I asked him to walk around the school and talk to the children," said Elliot Point Elementary School principal, Janet Stein. "We had children go home and tell their moms and dads there was a police officer at the school there to protect them."

Stein went on to say that the response from parents has been one of immense gratitude and relief, a sentiment that's shared by many of the teachers.

Sheriff Larry Ashley says that while he didn't want to choose, he knew his top priority was keeping children safe.

"I think they are all necessary, but if I've got to choose between whether to enforce traffic on our roadways or protect our children in our elementary schools, then I'll use our resources I have in elementary schools," said Ashley.

Tuesday, Ashley asked Okaloosa county commissioners to help pay a portion of the $1.5 million dollars he'll need to keep deputies in school through the end of June, however he says that whether or not they receive the funding, the SRO's will remain in place, even if it means cutting off other services they've normally provided.

"We spend a lot of money to protect our courthouse and we use a lot of manpower to do that, we spend a lot of money protecting our roadways and we spend a lot of resources on a lot of things," Ashley said, "our children were not one of them."

Ashley noted that the services that would probably be cut if funding wasn't received would include parades and funeral processions.