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Okaloosa School Board votes to keep deputies in schools

The Okaloosa School Board has voted to continue having deputies in every school. They were placed district-wide after the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012. The program is getting statewide recognition.

Laura Hussey "When Sheriff Larrry Ashley quickly assembled a School Resource Officer team after Sandy Hook, he pulled deputies from everything from Traffic to Street Crimes. A year and a half later, almost all of those deputies have chosen to stay in the schools"

Their first job is to stay ready for the active shooter on campus. They're the only SRO team with a dedicated tactical officer training them for a possible one on one confrontation.

Sgt. Gary Venuti "Single man entries, single man approach to the tactical problem."

Many parents say the feeling of security goes beyond the remote chance of a shooter. One Choctawhatchee High School parent says, "Knowing there's an officer here for anything that would happen. There's a lot going on in different school systems around the country, makes a parent concerned"

Okaloosa's SRO team is part of the agency's Criminal Investigations Division. They're responsible for keeping a lid on gang activity.

Gary Venuti "We're getting the intel through the school system, we also handle outside of the school system the gang intel for the whole county"

They've also taken over responsibility for monitoring sexual predators. The deputies frequently check the neighborhoods near their schools. It makes for a long workday, but Sergeant Gary Venuti says they've bought into the mission.

Gary Venuti "They have that same belief that no one could do it better than us, because these are the people that might show up on our campuses"   

Venuti says the biggest misconception is that school resource officers want to put kids "in the system". Their efforts to keep kids out of trouble earned them the title of "Agency of the Year" from the Florida Association of School Resource Officers.

Laura Hussey "Okaloosa's team competed against SROs from much larger cities when they took home the top honor."