Sunrise’s Ryan: Find Ways To Save Cops In Schools


It was the first week of elementary school.   As a young student ran towards his mom anxiously waiting to hear about his day, he turned and pointed back down the hall.  Excitedly, he yelled for all to hear, “That is my new best friend.  That’s Officer Ben.”

School Resource Officer Ben, in full police uniform, had comforted the young student when he was crying and felt all alone in the cafeteria.  Officer Ben positively influenced a young student that day and we hope for life.

The School Resource Officer program is a unique and demonstrated successful opportunity to blend community policing with education, mentoring, and safety.

 SRO’s Threatened by Funding Inequities and Tough Times

Through a cooperative agreement with the School Board, participating cities receive $46,252 reimbursement from the School Board for each SRO.  According to the School Board, this represents one-half the school year costs associated with SRO duties.  The remainder of the costs must be absorbed by the individual cities.

But, there is inequity, instability and inconsistency in the program countywide.

Some residents may demand and financially support full-time SROs in “their” schools.  However, their own children may be designated to attend schools in another city – to schools in cities without SROs.

In contrast, some residents do not help fund the municipal costs of SROs, but send their children to schools outside their city – to schools in cities with SROs.

Some cities have entirely eliminated SROs in elementary schools.   Others, not wanting to eliminate the program entirely, have chosen to share SROs amongst two or three elementary schools.

Elimination of SROs in elementary schools and the inconsistency of the program across the county prevent us from maximizing the intended long-term benefits of the SRO program.

 What is a School Resource Officer?

SROs are part of the integrated educational team which protects, guides and molds our most precious gifts – our children.

The SRO is a certified law enforcement officer who undergoes additional specialized screening and training to serve in our schools.

They are NOT security guards.

They are police officers available to teach and mentor students, while having the full capacity to provide a law enforcement response in the community.

 SROs: Kindergarten to High School Graduation

Parents, teachers, administrators and those in law enforcement committed to the SRO program agree — elementary schools are the place to foster and grow effective SRO relationships we know are critically important in the middle and high schools.

The SRO is meant to generate a positive attitude towards law enforcement, offer educational support in our fight against drugs, crime and bullying, develop an understanding of the behavioral issues in the neighborhood and youth community, and construct a beneficial foundation for future interactions with law enforcement.

The presence of the SRO also provides a deterrent to those targeting young children around our schools.  Other beneficial features include traffic safety and an expedited law enforcement response to school violence or weapons.

Does Your Public School Have a SRO?

According to the School Board, the extent of the SRO program depends on where you live and where your child goes to school:

  1. Full-time SRO’s in all schools, including elementary: Coconut Creek, Cooper City, Margate, Miramar (also has two in each High School), Parkland, Sunrise.
  2. Part-time SROs in elementary schools: Coral Springs, Dania Beach, Deerfield Beach, Pembroke Pines, Plantation, Pompano Beach (one covering three schools), Tamarac, Weston (one covering three schools), Wilton Manor (SRO has road patrol duties).
  3. No SROs in elementary schools: Davie, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale (none in Elementary or Middle School), Hollywood, Lauderdale Lakes, Lauderhill, North Lauderdale, Oakland Park.

Since 2006, countywide there are 10 less schools, but 33 less SROs.

The reduction has been almost exclusively in elementary schools!

 Why You Should Care?

Even if you do not have a child in public school or in a school where there are no SROs, you should care.

You must care how a young student perceives law enforcement and what law enforcement knows about our young people.

You must care whether or not young people see law enforcement as someone they can trust to seek help from in times of trouble.

You must care whether or not students are being taught about the dangers of drugs, gangs, bullying and peer-pressure from the youngest age.

Those students will grow up, will travel around the county, and may later live in your city.  How they were taught, what they were taught, and who their influences were will impact you.

In Sunrise, we are declaring November 8, 2011 “School Resource Officer Day.”  We are proud as a community and as a Commission to be able to support a full-time SRO program.

We Must Work Together to Find Equitable Solutions

For some cities facing tough budget decisions, funds from seizures may be legally available to help.   However, forfeiture funds are not a long-term, stable source of funding.

Some of my colleagues around the County have suggested other imaginative ideas for funding:  Parking, traffic and/or “school zone” violation tickets might provide an opportunity to off-set municipal costs.

This year, the Education Committee and the Public Safety Committee of the Broward League of Cities intend to work jointly towards proposing solutions.

Working together with the School Board, the law enforcement community, parents, educators, residents and elected officials, we need long-term, equitable and stable solutions for all public schools – for the benefit of students, teachers, parents and our entire community.

(As former Chair of the Broward County Council of PTAs’ SRO Committee, former two-term president of an elementary school PTA, and father of 2 children in public schools, Mike Ryan has been an advocate for the SRO program.   This year, he is Chair of the Public Safety Committee of the Broward League of Cities.)  

15 Responses to “Sunrise’s Ryan: Find Ways To Save Cops In Schools”

  1. Parent says:

    The SRO may not be an actual security guard. He is no doubt a deterrent to crime and drugs in the school just by being there. SROs are worth the money.

  2. Resident says:


    You should be the one running for County Commission from Sunrise. You are far more qualified and respected then your colleague.

    You may be surprised how many people would support you.

  3. T. L. Potluck says:

    Resident is right. You are respected and have an agenda that is not about YOU. YOU need to run for county commission and beat Sheila Alu.

    Sheila Alu is only out for herself. She disrupts everything she touches. Just ask the state attorney. Alu talks about cleaning up Broward. What about Ilene Lieberman grabbing every lobbyist to contribute to yourcampaign, Sheila. Alu is not wanted or needed.

  4. Oldtimer says:

    Michael: If memory serves me correctly, where the SRO Program existed, the municipalities bore the total costs for a long time. Over a dozen years ago some municipal leaders fought to have the School Board fund at least a portion of the SRO program costs. It took time and
    with the aid of the Broward League of Cities, it finally happened. Gradually, the School Board increased their share. It is a beneficial program and should be continued.

  5. Time For A Change? says:

    The original reason for SRO’s was because we have a bunch of criminals and criminals in training running around inside our schools. We needed SROs to keep kids from robbing, raping and murdering each other. It has morphed into the SRO being a social worker with a gun and a badge. The biggest part of an SRO’s job is dealing with crime, the second part is to get kids familiar with a Law Enforcement Officer as a part of the community and to keep the salvageable kids from turning into hardened criminals. The School District taxes property owners at least as high as municipalities do, but claim poverty when they are called on to provide our kids with a safe environment. This is BS. If any business or special event had as much crime and violence associated with it as our Public Schools, it would be shut down as a public nuisance or required to hire off duty police personnel AT THEIR OWN EXPENSE. IMO, schools should foot the bill for SROs entirely, unless the city wants to pay a share of it as a community service. The School District already has their own (Lazy) police dept, but it is tasked with enforcing the law for district employees only. It is time we demand that schools be safer with the money we are already spending in school taxes.

  6. Jeffrey Schneider says:

    Is Cinthia “Cindy” Thomas still on the Broward Soil and Water Conservation District?

    Her husband, Dave Thomas, resigned as a School Board member with Jennifer Gottlieb while saying that it was because of his wife Cynthia.

    Did she quit? Is there an open position on the Broward Soil and Water Conservation District that has not been filled?

    If Cynthia Thomas did resign from her position to keep consistent with her husband’s resignation from the Broward School Board who is her replacement.

    Is the Broward Soil and Water Conservation District a taxing district? Where does it get its money from?

    FROM BUDDY: I wrote a story on this district in 2007 for the Sun-Sentinel. I can’t link it because the paper’s stories cost money. But if you want to pay, you can find it.

    As I remember — without looking the story up — it is largely funded by the U. S. Ag Department. At the time I wrote the story, it was being criticized by county commissioners for duplicating services they already provided or could provide.

  7. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    Security of school buildings is the legal responsibility of school boards. That’s why Dade and Palm Beach school districts have their own police departments. Not so in Broward. Under Sheriff Navarro, the SRO program was born in Broward County where BSO joined cities in providing special resource police officers (SRO’s) instead of security guards in schools. Everybody loves it but it’s wildly expensive. Especially since almost all the cost fell to cities. The school board hardly chipped in at all. That’s not right because it’s their buildings and we pay them taxes too.

    So we in Pines led the fight for more money from the school board for SRO’s. We just couldn’t afford it anymore without a tax increase.

    We got the League involved and ultimately a deal was reached where the school board began paying 10% more each year until they got to half the cost of SRO’s. That was progress. But still 50% was not enough so we got creative.

    Together with our police union, Pines agreed to put our full time SRO police on street duty and replace retiring officers. In their place in schools, we hired retired police officers to serve as SRO’s on a per diem basis. It’s working great, it saves millions and improves street patrol coverage.

    We should have done it years ago but make no mistake. Our parents expect a police officer protecting their kids in school. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way. For us this was never a question of whether to do it, it was always about finding the best way to get it done. I think we have.


  8. Too Much?? says:

    These SROs cost money, which is probably why they are using one for more than one school in some cases. Where is the money going to come from? Cities and the School Board doesn’t have it.

  9. Mayor Mike Ryan says:

    It is true, increases in reimbursement by the School Board were welcomed. I personally went to the School Board as a representative of PTA advocating for the increases in reimbursement. We understood the economic realities and wanted to preserve the program. Fortunately, the broad support for the program from municipalities and the obvious financial inequities resonated positively with certain members of the School Board. The collective work to increase the School Board contribution was welcomed. Thank you to all involved in that effort.

    SROs, in the intended form, are NOT a security team. SROs are part of an overall community policing strategy. They are linked to the road patrol because they are certified law enforcement under the same command structure. During summers and holidays, they are part of the road patrol structure in our neighborhoods and malls. In localized emergencies, they are deployed just as all other road patrol officers. They communicate regularly with road patrol on neighborhood policing issues. In the middle and high schools, SROs are an integral part of the overall integrated policing and intelligence strategy.

    Detaching the SROs from the municipal police structure undermines the strength of the program and makes them security guards. That’s why most agree – we should NOT transition to a security force as other school districts have done. We want our SROs under our municipal command structure to maximize the community policing benefits.

    For some cities, perhaps retired officers who only work school days are an acceptable and necessary option. To be sure, economic challenges may leave some municipalities with no choice. Whether or not that strategy is ideal is a matter of debate.

    But, as we struggle to find solutions to save the program, whatever can be done must be considered and examined. This includes considering funds from forfeitures or derived from tickets as potential future options to help off-set costs.

    All efforts to save the program are important. It means too much to our children, families, teachers, schools, and neighborhoods.

  10. Sam the Sham says:

    BSO has a Reserve Deputy program where the Reserve Officer is a certified Law Enforcement Officer with full academy training and the same uniform. The difference,(other than on the job experience) is that Reserve Deputies work part time and only get paid $11 an hour with few or no costly benefits. This could be the way to go.

  11. Another LEO says:

    Sam the Sham has a good idea. My experience is that only a special kind of officer, one that relates to children and wants to work with children, are good SROs. That is a rare quality since it is not the reason officers become officers. It is usually older, more experienced officers with kids of their own who are good SROs. Those are exactly the same officers needed on a supervisor track. There are not enough good officers around and we should have only the best working in the schools for all the reasons Mayor Ryan outlined. Sam the Sham’s idea is one to be explored.

  12. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    To Mayor Ryan,

    Bullseye, couldn’t say it better, you’re dead on target. The SRO program IS all about community policing. But it has to be done affordably. The school board must continue funding it because cities just can’t afford to shoulder that responsibility alone anymore. No city can.

    Here’s how things have worked in Broward — the conversation starts with “let’s support SRO program” and before you know it, the school board takes takes their SRO money away leaving cities in a lurch. With the support of PTO’s! That brand of politics is very, very Broward and it can’t be allowed on this issue because of the price tag and the stakes involved. This is not a hill that cities should be forced to take twice.

    The fact remains that security or policing in schools — however you want to phrase it — is the legal responsibility of school boards. This is why school boards are authorized to create their own police departments.

    Policing schools is not the legal responsibility of cities except to respond to 911 calls.

    With that said, however, everybody agrees that city police departments can do it better. We can do it better and at a lower expense than school boards. Everyone agrees. But the school board has to pay. City Halls cannot afford to subsidize the legal responsibilities of other taxing authorities. Everybody has to have skin in the game.

    We had to fight very hard to get them to chip in more properly and I do not want that ground lost. The school board is very good about confusing our kindness with weakness. On this issue they need to recalcuate. School board funding for the SRO program needs to become a permanent responsibility not some form of discretionary spending. PTO’s need to understand that the risk of loss of SRO’s is not a city question, it’s a school board question.

    All I’m saying is that everybody needs to pay their own bills. Under the law security or policing in schools is a school board responsibility. They need to pay for that function, and then cities can continue doing the great job with SRO’s that we’ve done all along.


  13. sunriseoversite says:

    Commissioner Angelo your are amazing ! Taking nothing away from Mayor Ryan because he could run for county and win. I do believe Commissioner Angelo you should also put in for the job. I believe that you would represent us very well. I truly value your ideas and input. Commissioner Angelo you would have my vote. Most speak of Shelia Alu MY MOTTO IS SHELIA WHO? Go for it Angelo! !

  14. Julia Spann says:

    Mayor Mike Ryan, I am so proud of you for standing up and championing this ever-so-important cause for our families. Your leadership is a shining example of what more of our community leaders should be doing with or without a title. Let’s continue to push for more full-time SROs in all schools.

  15. loki says:

    Sunrise didn’t need to get rid of the sros in the first place.The. previous Mayor did that to be a dick his ploy for saving money that the city has plenty of. Where is the thirty five dollar refund for the increase in the water bill?