The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will not launch an investigation against Miami-Dade Public Schools Public Chief Charles Hurley, whom several officers have accused of sexual harassment and of needlessly Baker Acting children to pad his crime statistics.
“Based on the information that was provided to FDLE, we determined that it was not sufficient enough to justify a criminal investigation,” FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger told HuffPost Miami.
Instead, she said, the school district can choose to pursue “administrative avenues." District spokesman John Schuster said Wednesday that the chief remains reassigned as the district continues its own investigation.
It was two weeks ago that multiple complaints were filed with the school district and FDLE. Two “respected, ranking officers” working under Hurley filed the sexual harassment claims, said Joe Puleo, staff representative of the Florida State Fraternal Order of Police, and at least one other complaint alleged Hurley directed officers to Baker Act rather than arrest students.
Puleo said he had noticed an increase in the number of children who have been Baker Acted under Hurley’s watch. Officially known as the Florida Mental health Act, the statute allows law enforcement to place those who are at risk to themselves under “temporary detention for evaluation” and, if necessary, in a treatment facility.
“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 explained at the time.
Though the FOP has been monitoring the case, Puleo had no comment Wednesday on the news that FDLE would not pursue an investigation.
Major Gerald Kitchell currently serves as acting chief of the department, which is the 7th-largest police agency in Miami-Dade County.
Schuster pointed out that use of the Baker Act has increased 79 percent statewide from 2000 to 2010, and Florida exceeds the national average for mentally ill persons, averaging 9 percent of its population compared to a nationwide average of 3 percent.
But how to explain the increase? Protocol in the district demands school counseling staff work with police on safety assessments to determine if transport for a third party evaluation is necessary, and Shuster suggested the higher volume of Baker Acts is the result of "heightened awareness...regarding crisis intervention and the early warning signs of at-risk behaviors which could lead to suicide, school violence and/or homicide."