Police union wants PBSO to take over school district police department

Police union wants PBSO to take over school district police department

In the wake of the sudden resignation of Palm Beach County School District Police Chief Frank Kitzerow, the county's law enforcement union is asking the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office to take over policing for the school district.

Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association President John Kazanjian said the association voted on Friday to ask PBSO to submit a proposal to merge with the school district's police department and take over operations.

"It's about time that he left. Because since he's been over there, the morale has just gone as low as it can get," Kazanjian said of Kitzerow's resignation. "I'm glad he's gone."

Kazanjian said the low morale is attributed, in part, to Kitzerow bringing in his own policies, trying to change the culture of the department, and running an operation that was too heavy on administration.

According to Kazanjian, the PBA was preparing to do a "vote of no confidence" in Kitzerow.

"I think he found out about that. He resigned, cause that could be a death blow for any chief," Kazanjian said.

In response to the chief's resignation, 103 members of the PBA voted on Friday to ask the sheriff's office to submit a proposal to take over the school district's police department, something that's been thrown around numerous times in the past.

Kazanjian said a merger would allow police officers to remain at their schools. But now, they would be employed by the sheriff's office with better benefits, better equipment, and more manpower and resources.

"This is a win-win for the school board, and the employees of the school board police," Kazanjian said. "Because right now, they're running short. I think they're well over 40 people short."

"At this time, Pbso has no plans to move forward with this merger," said sheriff's office spokeswoman Teri Barbera in a written statement to WPTV.

In addition to low morale, Kazanjian said there's a labor practice lawsuit against Kitzerow, along with several grievances.

INTERVIEW WITH POLICE UNION:

Palm Beach County PBA president talks Chief Kitzerow resignation

"This is a very big loss for the district," Board Member Erica Whitfield said Friday of Kitzerow's departure. "He is highly skilled, well respected. He's done so much for our system around mental health and school security, keeping our kids safe."

INTERVIEW WITH SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER:

Palm Beach County School Board member talks Chief Kitzerow

Whitfield said she's aware of issues involving Chief Kitzerow's tenure. However, she doesn't believe they played a role in his decision to step down.

"I really don't think it's causing that huge of an issue within the system. I really think I've never seen our police so happy," Whitfield said.

Whitfield added that she's spoken with many police officers who say they enjoy working with the chief.

"The system has been very strong, probably the strongest I've seen it in my six years on the board," Whitfield said.

Kitzerow became the school district's police chief in July of 2018, just months after the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

"That was a very trying time for our system," Whitfield said. "He brought such a huge skill set. I think he's done such a great job in this position."

In the years that followed, Kitzerow oversaw a major milestone of having at least one school district police officer at all 179 district-operated schools.

"Our level of security and safety has never been so high," Whitfield said.

"During my tenure, I have achieved the innovative goals that I set for school safety and security," Kitzerow wrote in his resignation letter. "All of this progress, and my confidence in the team presently in place, were very instrumental in my decision to take on new challenges outside of the district."

While Kitzerow's official last day hasn't been announced, Whitfield said she believes it will be in a few weeks to give school district officials the opportunity to find an interim chief and start the process of picking a replacement.

A school district spokesperson said Kitzerow’s replacement and last day will be announced early next week. The district said Kitzerow will be willing to conduct an interview at that time.

"What he has done in that role has been super valuable," Whitfield said. "In good news, he's really left us in a very good place."

Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy of the School District of Palm Beach County has not publically commented on the chief's resignation.

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