Grand jury blasts former police director saying, ‘conduct is not simply irresponsible, it is absolutely criminal’
News4Jax | By Joe McLean | August 22, 2022
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A spokesperson for Duval County Public Schools addressed the latest report from a Florida grand jury that accuses the former director of Duval County Public Schools’ Police Department of severely underreporting instances of crimes on school campuses over a four-year period.
“The new grand jury report correctly states that we self-reported to the state when we discovered the errors in our 2018 SESIR reporting data,” DCPS communications director Tracy Pierce said. “We will continue to cooperate with the grand jury and other participants in any further, potential judicial action to provide any evidence which may address the claims made against Mr. Edwards in the report.” (The full statement from Pierce can be read at the bottom of this article.)
DCPS Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene, who told the grand jury back in January of last year that she would leave law enforcement decisions to the law enforcement leaders, declined to comment on the report on Monday but did address the panel during the course of its investigation.
While the jury expressed concern at Greene’s apparent lack of awareness of the allegations, the panel added that it should not be part of a superintendent’s portfolio anyway.
“We heard testimony from the Superintendent of the Duval County School District, who asserted that in matters such as this, she would defer to Edwards’ guidance regarding police procedure and was not familiar with the goings-on we have described. Hopefully such deference will not be the norm going forward, but this testimony bolsters our conclusion that educators and administrators, regardless of how accomplished in their chosen field, are woefully ill-equipped to make law enforcement decisions, and school police chiefs should not be answerable and reporting to the Districts, but rather to the law enforcement agency with geographical jurisdiction (preferably, the County Sheriff).”Grand Jury of the Supreme Court of Florida, Case Number: SC19-240
DCPS Police Chief Micheal Edwards resigned in 2021, roughly a month after a preliminary report excoriated the department’s reporting practices.
Full statement from DCPS:
“As we promised the community when the first grand jury report was released—and as was recommended in the most recent grand jury report—the school district did initiate and conduct a joint review of our current processes for SESIR reporting with state officials. We worked directly with the Florida Department of Education Office of Safe Schools on this review. Because of this collaboration with the state, we are confident that our current procedures are legally sound.
The new grand jury report correctly states that we self-reported to the state when we discovered the errors in our 2018 SESIR reporting data. It should be clear to families and the community that we:
– Self-reported the errors.
– Corrected both the errors and our procedures.
– Requested that the FLDOE Office of Safe Schools review our policies and procedures to ensure compliance with state law. That joint review was conducted earlier this year.
Mr. Edwards resigned in 2021. We will continue to cooperate with the grand jury and other participants in any further, potential judicial action to provide any evidence which may address the claims made against Mr. Edwards in the report.”Dr. Tracy Pierce, Director of Communications, Duval County Public Schools
Investigators had combed through more than 2,600 “incident” reports. The jury said more than 520 of them should have been labeled “offense” reports and filed with state law enforcement.
They included 150 instances of battery on a school employee, 94 instances of child abuse,157 lewd acts and many others.
David Barksdale, who is representing Edwards, released the following statement to News4JAX:
“Grand jury proceedings are secret under state law so I don’t know what took place before the grand jury. The Police Operational Procedure Orders for which Mr. Edwards was criticized in fact were public records. In any event, the Grand Jury’s Final Report reports that the Office of Statewide Prosecution will not bring formal charges against Mr. Edwards. This matter is closed.
As I said last week, Mr. Edwards has devoted 36 years of his life to protecting and serving the citizens of Duval County. All who have worked with Mr. Edwards would say that he was conscientious, courageous, hardworking, and willing to give his all to improve the work environment. His resounding goal as a leader has been to ensure that all citizens, faculty members, students, and employees of the Duval County School Police Department were treated the way he would have liked to be treated as a person. He is thankful for all the support he has received during this journey. He is proud of his 36 years of law enforcement service to our community.”David Barksdale, attorney for Micheal Edwards