Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey

WFSU

Gov. Rick Scott has rejected a request from Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater to consider a search for a new head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Scott wants the cabinet to consider changes at the departments of insurance regulation, financial regulation, and revenue. The exchange comes as Democratic lawmakers call for an investigation into the ouster of former FDLE head Gerald Bailey.

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Two of Governor Rick Scott’s new agency leaders earned cabinet-level approval Tuesday, but Scott still isn’t saying why he let go of one his longest-serving agency secretaries.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey has been replaced by Rick Swearingen.  Scott was twice asked by reporters Tuesday why Bailey was let go but didn’t answer the question.

In the coming months, there will be some major shifts in the way statewide crime lab currently operate. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is looking to make some procedural changes spurred on by the initial arrest of a former crime lab chemist in a supervisorial role, suspected of tampering with drug evidence.

What Led To The Changes?

Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

Procedural changes are in store for Florida’s criminal justice system. State lawmakers must address the escapes of several felons who used forged court documents to secure their release. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is also reviewing its crime lab operations, after the recent arrest of a former chemist suspected of tampering with drug evidence in multiple cases.

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New details about the October escapes of two inmates locked up at a Franklin County prison suggest investigators are dealing with an organized criminal operation and investigators say more arrests are imminent.

Officials from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Department of Corrections and Clerks of Court confirm the forged documents that convicts Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker used to escape were manufactured within the prison’s walls. But, FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey explained that there’s no indication the inmates had help from corrections staff.

Escaped Prisoners Prompt Widening Inquiry

Oct 25, 2013
R.Benk / WFSU-News

A week after two Florida convicts were recaptured after escaping using bogus release documents, authorities still are unsure exactly how or with whom the inmates coordinated their short-lived escape attempts. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is scrambling to ensure more prisoners aren’t on the loose.

Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker strolled out of the same Franklin Correctional Facility 12 days apart after prison officials received forged release papers. They were recaptured at a Panama City hotel Saturday evening.

Recent findings by the University of South Florida show there is nearly double the amount of graves found in the now-closed Dozier School for Boys than previously reported by the state years ago. Alleged victims of abuse at the Marianna reform school say an outside source, like the U.S. Justice Department, would be better suited to uncover the truth than state investigators.

For years, there have been stories of abuse and deaths surrounding the Dozier School for Boys, a reform school in the Panhandle that closed down last year amid questions about abuse and deaths at the school.

Sascha Cordner

The overall number of drug-related deaths in Florida is on the rise. Meanwhile, the state is seeing a drop in the number of prescription drug related deaths. Attorney General Pam Bondi says the decrease is the result of a two-year effort by the state to crack down on pill mills. And, the effort also grew with the help of pill mill legislation in 2011.

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Florida’s overall crime rate has hit a 41-year low. Regan McCarthy reports the state’s total number of crimes for 2011 is down by a tenth of a percent, and the number of violent crimes is down 3.7-percent.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey says Floridians are safer now than “any time in the last four  decades.” Bailey says the decrease is thanks to the state’s law enforcement officers, but he says that safety has come at a cost.