Florida Times-Union | by Dan Scanlan | January 25, 2021
Just a month after a new statewide grand jury report blasted the Duval County Public Schools Police Department for “outright fraud” and underreporting incident and crime numbers to make a better impression, the director has tendered his resignation.
Micheal Edwards, executive director of the department, is now replaced by Assistant Chief Wayne Clark Sr. as acting director effective immediately, according to a brief statement from the district. A national employment search will be conducted to select the next executive director.
The resignation appears to have caught some district officials by surprise.
“I am not aware of his motivation for resigning at this time,” School Board Chairwoman Elizabeth Andersen said when contacted Monday afternoon.
“I don’t really know,” board member Warren Jones said. “I just got home and read the email.”
The school police department is one of fewer than 20 school district-run police agencies in Florida.
Edwards began heading the department on April 15, 2015, after a 30-year stint at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office where he served as director of the Departments of Personnel and Professional Standards, Investigations and Homeland Security, and Patrol and Enforcement. His school district biography states he is a “results-oriented administrator” with hands-on and management experience in law enforcement. He started in 1983 as a corrections officer, then patrolman the next year and was a police instructor.
Clark started with the school police in June 2015 after working as director of Aviation Security for the Jacksonville Aviation Authority for three years and 30 more with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
The Florida Supreme Court website published the grand jury’s third interim report in mid-December. That 27-page document is designed to review how well recommendations from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission were being realized. The grand jury was formed in early 2019 after a request from Gov. Ron DeSantis and the 2018 mass shooting at the South Florida school.
That report largely focused on Florida’s mental-health systems and deficiencies in funding but also pointed out issues with schools’ abilities to differentiate criminal behavior from simple misbehavior. Duval Schools was used as the key example, the only of Florida’s 67 counties and 74 school districts singled out.
At the time, the school district responded with a brief statement saying the safety and security of students and employees “remains the highest priority of the district.” It said the interim report covers a number of years, during which time the district has made “procedural improvements related to student behavioral incident reporting.”
“We remain committed to examining current procedures to ensure strict compliance,” the statement concluded. “To assure the School Board and the public, Duval County Schools will pursue an external review of district and school reporting practices to determine if further improvements are needed.”
The school district said it is launching its own review of the conclusions of the interim grand jury report, which said that Duval County was a “representative [though unfortunately not isolated] example.” The report also noted a PowerPoint training presentation where the school police department said Chapter 1006 — a policy about zero tolerance for crime and victimization in schools — “did not require the reporting of petty acts of misconduct and misdemeanors to a law enforcement agency,” but that’s not a correct interpretation of the law.
The report said this training was taken to the next level, with the district police not reporting any misdemeanor crimes.
Finally, the report said that gang-related incidents were dramatically underrepresented by the schools police.
Times-Union writer Emily Bloch contributed to this report.
Photo: Duval County Schools Police Chief Michael Edwards and Superintendent Diana Green discuss a 2018 fatal shooting after a Raines and Lee football game. The school district announced his resignation Monday. Dan Scanlan/Florida Times-Union