Jupiter chief tapped to lead school district’s police department

Jupiter Police Chief Frank Kitzerow has been selected as the Palm Beach County public schools’ next police chief, signaling a new direction for school police amid heightened angst about campus security.

Schools Superintendent Donald Fennoy’s decision this week to hire Kitzerow comes as the school district rushes to recruit officers and persuade other departments to help it in complying with a new requirement that all schools have armed security.

RELATED: A cop in every public school by August? Easier said than done

As chief, Kitzerow will steer an unsettled 160-officer department that is seeking to expand and adjust to new expectations for school security in the wake of the Parkland school shooting in February.

Underscoring the tense conditions, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw announced Friday that he would lend only 10 deputies to the school district to guard elementary schools next school year, rejecting the district’s request for 50 officers as unrealistic given his agency’s commitments.

That announcement leaves the school district searching to find three dozen more officers to comply with a new state law calling for armed officers at every public school when classes resume in August. The district has struck a tentative deal with 11 city police forces to patrol elementary schools in their city limits.

Before selecting Kitzerow, Fennoy ousted Chief Lawrence Leon, who had served six years, and restructured the chief’s job into a high-level position. The Jupiter chief’s hiring has to be approved by the school board, which will take up the matter on Wednesday.

RELATED: School district considers replacing police chief

In announcing his appointment, Fennoy praised Kitzerow’s long and varied career.

“We are extremely fortunate to have someone with Chief Kitzerow’s breadth and depth of experience to lead our school district police department,” Fennoy said in a statement.

Kitzerow, 61, spent 13 years as Jupiter’s police chief, a tenure marked by several high-profile criminal cases. Last year he earned $147,000.

Among the high-profile cases during his tenure: a month-long manhunt for the suspect in a Thanksgiving Day 2009 killing that left four dead, the 2016 arrest of a top Donald Trump presidential campaign aide on misdemeanor battery charges and the killing last year of three young adults in a rental home.

READ: In sleepy Jupiter, no rest in hunt for Thanksgiving Day murder suspect

Before that, he played a key role in another high-profile case: the Washington, D.C.-area sniper shootings in 2002.

At the time, he was a major at the Fairfax County (Va.) Police Department and commanded a 16-agency task force to sort through tens of thousands of tips during the search for the killers.

Last year Kitzerow, who did not respond to a message seeking comment, applied unsuccessfully to be Jupiter’s town manager. He also faced a lawsuit in April 2017 from his homeowner's association over $1,600 in unpaid dues before reaching a settlement in August.

The pay range for the revamped chief position is $112,500 to $178,500.

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