Chuck Mulligan, the community affairs bureau commander for the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office (SJSO), said the bureau has an intensified focus on the safety of St. Johns County students following the Parkland shooting in February.
"We always take our school safety very seriously at the sheriff's office," Mulligan said. "We knew that anxiety would be high that day and in the following days. Immediately, we pulled resources throughout the sheriff's office, and we had a deputy at every school the following day and for a short time after that."
Mulligan explained that the deputies were assigned to St. Johns County schools to ensure a copycat wouldn't replicate the Parkland shooting. Placing armed personnel inside the schools was a short-term response, Mulligan said, because long-term assignments would be difficult considering the office’s other responsibilities and lack of additional manpower.
In the days following Parkland, Mulligan said a statewide conversation occurred on how to distribute funds to counties within the state. Citing legislation recently passed by the Florida House on mandating additional funds for armed school officers and mental health services, Mulligan said he wasn't sure how additional funds will be distributed across Florida and how the new law will be implemented.
"We're not exactly sure how much money will be coming from the state,” he said. “That is still being planned as of last week as to how much money is being disseminated into what county and how much each county is going to get based on whatever formula the state uses. We can tell you on the short term that we will be definitely working with the district to determine what they wish to happen in the school system and what they believe it should look like."
Mulligan also said the sheriff's office is working with other agencies to review protocols and conduct an active shooter incident roundtable. According to the community affairs bureau commander, SJSO held a private meeting with other government agencies in response to Parkland where they exchanged ideas.
"There is a committee that has been formed between the sheriff's office and other law enforcement agencies," he said. “We will be discussing the law that has been passed and the moneys that will be made available. There may not be enough funding to implement every strategy that's been laid out, so we have to look at all that – and we're not there yet in that regard.”
Creekside High School safety training
Creekside High School will be hosting a law enforcement training session on Thursday, March 29, that will place deputies in a realistic active shooter scenario. According to Mulligan, members of the school district will be there to observe the session and get a first-hand look at how officers would respond in a crisis.
"There will be sheriff's office training while the school is out for spring break," he said. "This was scheduled before Parkland; it was scheduled months and months ago. This wasn't in response to Parkland, this was going to happen one way or another."
Mulligan said the training session occurs annually and officials pick a new venue each year.