OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WALA) - In response to the Sandy Hook tragedy, the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office placed armed deputies in every school in the district.
But now, the sheriff is asking for help footing the bill.
The halls of Shalimar Elementary School serve as a new office for Deputy Christine Phillips. As part of a new initiative, she's one of 26 deputies added to Okaloosa County schools.
With the addition of the deputies, there's now an armed officer at every school in the district. Deputy Phillips and her sheriff agree, in today's society there's no other way to handle it.
"It's overdue," Deputy Phillips said. "We've been talking about this for years, and it's just gotten to the point where everybody feels much better having a law enforcement presence here."
Sheriff Ashley said otherwise, it wouldn't be much different than a patrol officer responding to an emergency call.
"If you're not at the school, than you're responding from the outside in. If you're at the school, you're responding from within," Sheriff Ashley said.
But to fill the spots, Sheriff Ashley said he had to take deputies from the streets, and from court security in Phillips' case.
It'll cost $1.1 million for the remainder of the year to equip and train the resource officers.
Ashley hopes that bill will be split between the County Commission and the School District using taxpayer money.
"If I have to choose between the two, an elementary school and protecting those kids, or enforcing traffic laws on our roads, then I'm going to have them there in our schools," Sheriff Ashley said. "If I can't fund those positions, we're just not going to have them."
Ashley said for the future, it'll cost $3.4 million every year with this program. And with the state's ‘safe school' money constantly dwindling, another plan will have to arise to keep the initiative going.
"Unless our society changes I don't consider pulling officers out of schools," Sheriff Ashley said.
Ashley expects to the school board to agree to its half of the bill at its meeting Monday night.
For the county commission's side, he'll have to wait until January 22.
The plan beyond 2013 will be devised at or before the legislative session in March.
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