JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A statewide grand jury accused the former chief of the Duval County Schools Police Department, Micheal P. Edwards, of criminal misconduct in a scathing report unsealed Friday that alleged he took elaborate steps for years to manipulate and underreport criminal activity taking place on school grounds, displaying a shocking disregard for student safety.
The grand jury said a "legal quirk" prevented it from directly indicting Edwards on two felonies and one misdemeanor it outlined in its presentation. The Office of Statewide Prosecution is planning to pursue the case instead, the presentment said.
Edwards could not immediately be reached for comment.
In one case, which the grand jury said illustrated Edwards' troubling habit of covering up crime on school grounds, the then-police chief ordered officers to release a student who had been taken into custody during a high school football game for fighting. The officers on scene wanted to either release the student into his parents' custody or remove him from school grounds. Instead, because of Edwards' order, the student "remained on the premises and, tragically, was shot to death near the end of the game, which had apparently been continued from the previous incident," the grand jury said.
In another case, the grand jury heard testimony that a young person, who appeared to be a student, placed a gun into a backpack and entered a school near dismissal. A witness told a police officer, who moved to have the school locked down. Edwards refused out of concern the action might alarm parents, the grand jury said.
The statewide grand jury, convened at Gov. Ron DeSantis' request following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting, has taken aim at Duval County Schools before.
In an earlier report, unsealed in December 2020, the grand jury pointed to the Duval Schools Police Department as a key example of how school districts across Florida were underreporting incident and crime numbers to make a better overall impression.
Nate Monroe is a metro columnist whose work regularly appears every Thursday and Sunday. Follow him on Twitter @NateMonroeTU.