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Ormond Beach Observer Thursday, Apr. 25, 2019 2 months ago

OBPD retrains officers on Baker Acts following Ormond Beach Middle School incident

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Ormond Beach Police Chief Jesse Godfrey said measures were put in place to avoid a similar incident in the future.
by: Jarleene Almenas News Editor

A Feb. 8 incident involving a delayed Baker Act of a suicidal student at Ormond Beach Middle School caused the Ormond Beach Police Department to re-evaluate its school resource officer procedures.

An internal affairs investigation summary reported that while Ormond Beach Police officer Stephen Brugone was working at the school, a student made suicidal comments, climbed up to the school's second-story balcony and threatened to jump off, and later ran out onto the school's field while staff chased them. Brugone, who was covering a shift for OBMS' regular SRO, Baker Acted the student after these events took place and the child's mother arrived at the school. 

The investigation was triggered due to the school administration's concern of how the incident was handled. Earlier that day, the student had been sent out of class for disruptive behavior after they broke a computer monitor, according to the investigation summary. As the incident was going on, Brugone was also dealing with other students. He didn't witness the student climbing up to the balcony or running away from staff.

During an IA interview on March 5, Brugone said he had been waiting for the parents to arrive at the school to see how they wanted the situation handled, as he believed the parents had a right to deny the Baker Act. 

However, according to Florida Statute 394.463, law enforcement officers, as well as medical providers and courts, retain the right to Baker Act people. The allegations that Brugone failed to follow general orders, was negligent and violated custody procedure directive were sustained following the investigation.

Since then, the Police Department has conducted "refresher" trainings on Baker Acts, Police Chief Jesse Godfrey said. The Department made a checklist of things officers need to do while working at schools, something which wasn't in effect prior to the Feb. 8 incident. 

“Different officers were doing different things, and it wasn’t consistent," Godfrey said.

Also, until the regular SRO returns, OBPD assigned one designated officer to the school, rather than have a different one each day. 

“The safety of our kids is paramount, and we want to do everything we need to do to keep everybody safe — the parents, the staff, the students, the officers," Godfrey said. "Absolutely, it’s very important. We don’t take it lightly.”

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