Recently, we stood side by side with the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools to honor the memory of the little angels and staff members who were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. What was going through our minds was not what was going through the minds of those who attended the memorial service.
With us it’s not a matter of if it will happen, but when. Are we prepared to do what’s necessary? That is, prepared to meet head-on that aggression toward our students? Yes, we are. But how much longer can we continue to be?
The men and women of the Fraternal Order of Police have trained, and continue to train, to confront situations like this, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to hire and keep trained officers on board. We’re deadlocked in contract negotiations, our health insurance is skyrocketing and our salaries are nowhere near industry standards. While our teachers are the highest paid in the state of Florida (deservingly), we continue to be one of the lowest paid police departments in Miami-Dade County. The School Board continues to throw money out the door with every officer who leaves us for greener pastures.
More than 30 officers from our force of 151 have applications in at the Miami-Dade Police Department, and more to other surrounding agencies. Of the 151, we have 25 who are on afternoon and midnight patrol, 11 in the Detective Bureau and another eight who make up the Administrative Division and Internal Affairs. This leaves us with 107 officers, sergeants and lieutenants to provide police services for more than 345,000 students and 40,000 employees at more 400 schools. And let’s not forget the bus compounds, regional centers, maintenance facilities and School Board administration buildings that we still have to provide police services for.
Out of our 107 officers, at least 35 are assigned to high schools and cannot leave their schools, a mandate from the superintendent, which leaves about 72 uniformed officers to handle calls for services at the remaining 357 elementary and middle schools on a daily basis (provided no one is out on leave).
Some would say this is impossible to achieve, but our police officers do the impossible every single day of their careers. They are the best at what they do.
They come to work every day prepared to sacrifice their lives to protect the children of this community. We, the few, stand ready.
President, Fraternal Order of Police,
Police Lodge 133, Miami