Miami Beach to Put Police Officers in Schools

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Miami Beach to Put Police Officers in Schools:

Plan to enhance safety follows parkland tragedy

Miami Beach Commissioners this week started the process of placing Miami Beach Police officers in the public schools located within the City, authorizing the City Manager, City Attorney, and Chief of Police to enter into negotiations with the Miami-Dade County School Board to allow the officers in the County-run schools. The City of Miami passed a similar resolution last week.
 
MBPD Police Chief Dan Oates told Commissioners, “This conversation is taking place throughout the county … the school board acknowledged that they do not have the resources to police the schools as we all feel is needed right now.”
 
Oates said currently the City has six civilian part-time employees – retired police officers – who work as school liaison officers. They wear uniforms similar to the Park Rangers and are unarmed.
 
The discussion was part of an overall school safety conversation that included concerns raised by Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez that the County’s school police officers carry radios which are not compatible with MBPD.
 
Oates said, “We have offered for several years to have the School Board Police officers carry our radios so that they can reach us immediately. That offer has been declined over the years and was recently declined again. I made it clear to the chief of the School Board Police that I disagree with his decision. I believe that the impact of them not carrying our radios in an emergency is a delay in our response. How long that delay is depends upon the circumstances. It can be anywhere from a minute to several minutes” while information is relayed between dispatchers. “The other problem with that system,” he said, “is as our cops are responding, they’re not in direct communication with the officer in the school.”
 
Oates said the School Board Police chief did not want his officers to have to carry two radios and believes “the system that’s in place worked for years and worked well”.
 
“The appeal has been made and I got a definitive no on that,” Oates added.
 
Mayor Dan Gelber who spearheaded the resolution to put police officers in the schools said, “If we put our officers in our public schools, then obviously we have our radios in our schools.” He said he is meeting with school superintendent Alberto Carvalho this coming week and said he plans to discuss the “rules of engagement” for how MBPD officers would operate within the schools, among other things.
 
Oates said, “I’m waiting for the results of your meeting with the superintendent so there’s guidance as to begin a conversation about how that would work.”
 
Commissioner John Alemán told the Mayor she admired his long-term view but cautioned the amount of time it will take to work through the protocols and put staffing in place. The radios, she said, are an immediate stop gap solution. She was frustrated by the County School Board Police chief’s unwillingness to have his officers carry MBPD radios.
 
“I invited our School Board member and all of the regional leadership from Miami-Date Public Schools to come and talk about this with us and not one of them was available to come talk to us about it which I find shocking,” she said. “It was quite a few people and what could be more crucial. There’s a known delay. The Chief just said the whole 9-1-1 dispatching process has a delay and when our officer is coming for a known situation that requires Miami Beach PD to go onto campus outside of their normal jurisdiction, they can’t talk to the school PD until they get there.”
 
“With all due respect to the school PD chief, I would ask you as our Mayor to try to go over his head on this,” she added. “There’s no reason that school PD cannot wear our radios in this time period up until we have this permanent solution in place. I would hate to be making the call to regional leadership and the school board member to come back and explain to us after children have been hurt why this was okay. ‘We knew that there was a delay and we accepted it and couldn’t even come talk about it.’ I find it completely irresponsible on their part.”
 
Gelber said, “We can’t force the public schools to take our radios.”
 
“We can certainly ask the superintendent … to override the decision.” Alemán responded.
 
Oates indicated the school resource officers do carry MBPD radios which is a help though they are unarmed.
 
Gelber said, “I will offer the radios again and try to get that to happen” at his upcoming meeting with the superintendent.
 
City Manager Jimmy Morales pointed out that the process of negotiating an MOU with the County schools and having it approved by the Commission as well as the County School Board, will probably take 45-60 days. Then there is the matter of recruiting and training 8-10 new officers. He said Commissioners would need to decide if, in the interim, they wanted to move police officers from other areas of the City which would create coverage issues elsewhere, or fund coverage through overtime pay.
 
Oates said, “I can’t waive a wand and make that happen overnight. The only way to make that happen overnight is to pull resources from other demands around the city so that’s something else to be considered. It would be a challenge.” He said he preferred the overtime option.
 
Answering Gelber’s question about what to do while negotiations are underway, Oates pointed out a police officer could be posted outside of a school even though they are not authorized to be inside yet.
 
Commissioners passed two resolutions, one to urge the County school police officers to carry MBPD radios and a second to draw up a budget for Finance Committee consideration to fund the officers in the schools. That item will be on the Committee’s agenda next week.
 
Commissioner Micky Steinberg asked Oates to reach out to North Bay Village where Treasure Island Elementary School is located. “Over 50% of Miami Beach residents who live in North Beach go to Treasure Island Elementary,” she said, “I want us to keep that in mind as well. I don’t want them to be somehow precluded and maybe work a deal out with North Bay Village.”
 
Gelber also asked the Police Chief to reach out to private schools to offer MBPD radios and to do updated security assessments for all of the private school facilities as well.
 
 
Image: Shutterstock
 
 

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