Growing up, Dave Vincent always said he wanted to be a cop. “I’m going to wrestle bad guys and take them to jail,” Vincent said. “That was my thing.”
Today, Vincent is amid his first full school year as the Citrus County School District police chief, where he has the opportunity to shape the next generation.
He was officially sworn in Dec. 8, 2020, and is currently settling in to his new role.
Vincent began his career at the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) in 1993 after graduating from the police academy at Withlacoochee Technical College (WTC).
He began working in the communications center for the CCSO before becoming a patrol deputy. In 1996, Vincent was promoted to detective in the narcotics unit, where he did undercover narcotics work for seven years.
Back then, there were no cellphones. “We thought it was cool because we had pagers,” Vincent said. Much of his work involved street level drug sales in the community. “Believe it or not, we were driving around to buy drugs on street corners.”
Although Vincent said it was one of the most fun parts of his career, dealing only with bad people began to wear on him. “I did a whole 180 in my career and became a school resource officer,” he said.
Vincent couldn’t help but chuckle when he reminisced on his frosted tips and goatee, which he said were reminiscent of Guy Fieri. People joked with him and said, “You’re going to work with kids?”
Although the work environment was much different than he was used to, he said it was the best career decision he made and began to get comfortable with teaching. Soon, he became a sergeant in the school resource officer (SRO) unit.
Later, he went back to patrol as an administrative sergeant, oversaw the WTC police academy as a lieutenant, moved back to patrol as a captain and then became a special operations captain.
Despite Vincent’s many roles with the CCSO, he said something kept drawing him back to the school district. One of his professional goals was to become a police chief, so he was looking around for positions.
Soon enough, the police chief position opened up at the Citrus County School District and Vincent was contacted. “I think things happen in your life for reasons,” he said.
Although he thought the position was a great opportunity, Vincent said it was difficult to leave CCSO after 27 years.
“You pour so much into something to hope that you made an impact,” Vincent said. “Knowing you’ve got to leave it behind at some point — that’s tough.”
With previous experience overseeing the police academy at WTC, Vincent also took on the position as director when the academy came under control of the school district.
Vincent wasted no time getting to work. His first big project as chief was the installation of CrisisAlert to comply with Alyssa’s Law.
The law requires Florida public schools to implement a mobile panic alarm system capable of connecting emergency personnel by the 2021-22 school year.
All installation of CrisisAlert was completed during this past summer and Vincent is still working with schools to perfect its integration with their intercom systems.
Previously, the district used Raptor for visitor management. To keep up with Alyssa's Law, Raptor was planning a mobile panic app.
The app would have met the requirements, but Vincent found that staff members could not be forced to download it to their personal devices.
In large districts, Vincent said an inadequate number of staff members were downloading the app. “That’s just not gonna be acceptable for us,” he said. “I want the gold standard.”
In addition, cellphones require working Wi-Fi or cellular service, which aren’t always reliable.
Vincent began looking at other options and found Centegix, the company that created CrisisAlert. Now, every staff member has a mobile panic button on their ID badge.
The CrisisAlert system creates its own network, rather than relying on Wi-Fi and internet. “This is a huge advantage when we’re looking at a second mattering in an emergency,” Vincent said.
Vincent said he’s getting great feedback from principals. In the case of a medical emergency or fight, they are able to find the exact location of the incident and respond accordingly.
Vincent also oversees the guardian program, which is undergoing its third full year in schools. He said the feedback from administration and students has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Every time I’m with those guys, they’re fist bumping kids,” Vincent added.
Looking forward, Vincent said he’s always looking at projects to make schools safer. Most recently, the entryways at three district elementary schools were secured.
Now, once people get through the front door, they can't get any further without being checked in. Lecanto Middle School will undergo the same construction next summer.
Vincent also said his goal is to find a balance between schools being both a welcoming and safe place for students. For example, he said fencing is always an issue.
“I don’t want schools to look like prisons,” Vincent said, “but in this day in age, fencing works.”
Despite the tremendous amount of work, Vincent said he’s enjoying his new responsibility. “I’m really glad to be back in this environment,” he said. “I’m still learning — you learn stuff every day.”