Miami Dade Public Schools Police Chief Charles Hurley is accused of directing officers to Baker Act rather than arrest students to make it appear that crimes have decreased under his watch.
Representatives from both the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Miami-Dade Public Schools told HuffPost Miami that they are reviewing complaints on the matter, which was first reported by WSVN.
Officially known as the Florida Mental Health Act, the so-called Baker Act allows law enforcement officials to place individuals who are at risk to themselves under “temporary detention for evaluation” and, if necessary, in a treatment facility.
Joe Puleo, staff representative for Florida State Fraternal Order of Police, said he was shocked by the complaints, which were recently filed through both the FDLE and the FBI. Although he doesn’t know the exact number of incidents, Puleo said he did notice an escalation in the number of children taken out of school under the Baker Act in the last two years.
“If you Baker Act the child it’s not considered a crime, it’s considered a sick person, and it lowers [Hurley’s] criminal statistics. So it is a way to manipulate the system and make himself look better by doing that,” Puleo told HuffPost Miami.
Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said that the district is taking the claims seriously, though "we're not certain that there's any merit to it. We have to take into consideration how this allegation came to us."
"I personally take and I think being the transparent system we are, we take all allegations very seriously," he added. "And we initiate a process and then at the conclusion of the process we report back our findings and take appropriate action, and that's exactly what's happening."
On top of the stats-padding allegations, the chief is also facing sexual harassment complaints from subordinates. Puleo told WSVN that the two claims have come in from respected, ranking officers in the department, which is the 7th-largest police agency in Miami-Dade County.
"They filed complaints with outside agencies because they feel they’re not going to get anywhere inside the school boards, so they’ve gone to outside agencies for assistance," he told HuffPost, referring to both the Baker Act and sexual harassment complaints.
In April, Hurley said at a youth forum that although there are children in the district who do well on all fronts, “we do have youngsters who are troubled. …When you introduce a child into the juvenile justice system you put a label on them. It is our responsibility to shepherd them, love them, care for them and forgive them. To teach them what is right.”
An FDLE official said the department would need more time to review the allegations before additional comment. In a statement, the school district said its policy was to forward complaints to appropriate agencies, which "ensures proper respect and protection for the person filing the complaint and also protects the rights of the accused."
While the FDLE and the school district investigate the claims, the FOP will also be monitoring the case. Should the complaints prove to be founded, Puleo said “it’s a violation of civil rights, all kinds of charges are involved here.”