JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A grand jury has examined security issues in the Duval County School District and discovered that the former District Police Chief Michael P. Edwards had allowed a system of non-reporting crimes in schools while he was in office.
A total of more than 2,000 alleged crimes were not reported from 2016-2019, as stated in the grand jury report.
The full report from the grand jury was issued back in January 2021 but was unsealed last Friday.
The grand jury called Edwards’ actions “overt fraud” and stated, “This conduct is not simply irresponsible, it is absolutely criminal.”
The vast majority of the offenses listed were felonies. Not one of them was written as an Offense Report.
In one case, Edwards ordered officers to immediately release a student who had been taken into custody during a high school football game for fighting. The officers on scene intended to either contact the student’s parents, cite him or arrest the student and remove him from the premises. Instead, the student “remained on the premises and, tragically, was shot to death near the end of the game in an altercation which had apparently been continued from the previous incident,” the grand jury said.
The only shooting death at a high school football game in Duval County during Edwards tenure was the murder of a student near a Raines High School football game in August 2018. Robert Howard who was the shooter pleaded guilty to manslaughter back in May.
In another incident, a parent reportedly saw a student with what appeared to be a possible handgun in a backpack on school grounds. Edwards allegedly blocked the imposition of a school lockdown so that parents would not have to worry or be alarmed.
Gregory Burton has taken over the position as Chief of School Police since Edwards resigned in 2021.
The grand jury states that Edwards should be charged with three crimes:
- Solicitation of Official Misconduct
- Official Misconduct
- Falsifying Records
However, the grand jury stated that there was more than sufficient probable cause to indict but withheld it due to what they labeled “a quirk in Florida law.”
Edwards’ Attorney provided Action News Jax with a statement:
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.— Statement from attorney of Michael Edwards
DCPS also responded to Action News Jax’s request for a statement and provided the following:
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:
1. Self-reported the errors.
2. Corrected both the errors and our procedures.
3. 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 participants in any further, potential judicial action to provide any evidence which may address the claims made against Mr. Edwards in the report.— Statement from Duval County Public Schools
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