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Miami-Dade Schools police chief demoted amid sex harassment allegations

Dogged by allegations that he sexually harassed female officers, the embattled chief of Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ police force has been demoted.

Charles Hurley, suspended and reassigned to desk duty in May amid an investigation, has been transferred to a civilian position as a director at the district’s South Region office, according to district spokesman John Schuster. He said Hurley, who was earning $115,000 a year as chief, has taken a $40,000 pay cut to do “community outreach.”

Schuster said late Thursday that the new position is temporary, pending the outcome of the district’s investigations, but Hurley will not be back as chief.

Meanwhile, the district is seeking a permanent chief for its 160-member force, currently led by acting chief Maj. Gerald Kitchell.

“What we are looking to do at this point is reestablish long-term leadership for the police department,” Schuster said.

Schuster said Hurley was demoted Jan. 16, shortly after two officers filed lawsuits in Miami-Dade Circuit Court alleging he had harassed them for years. In the complaints, Cmdr. Deanna Fox-Williams and Officer Yewande Gibson said Hurley’s unwanted advances stretched back as far as 2007, when he was a police commander. In one instance, Gibson said he invited her to a house he’d renovated and then abruptly grabbed her, kissed her, unzipped his pants and made her touch his genitals.

Both women say Hurley, who did not return messages left on a cell phone Thursday, punished and threatened them when they rejected him. They filed complaints months apart with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year, leading to separate district investigations and Hurley’s suspension.

Schuster said Thursday that the timing of Hurley’s demotion coincided with the investigations, which he said “are in the process of concluding.” He declined, however, to comment on why Hurley was punished and whether his demotion was due to any finding that he had acted inappropriately.

Attempts to reach the women and their jet-set attorney, Willie Gary, were unsuccessful.

Hurley has been a schools officer since joining patrol in 1996, Schuster said. He rose to commander and then interim chief in August 2008 when his predecessor, Gerald Darling, left for Memphis after losing the support of the department’s union following a melee at Edison Senior High.

In the last year or so, his administration, too, grew tumultuous.

In 2011, some officers complained after he pulled out his .40 Glock pistol during a meeting, unloaded the magazine, and placed the bullets on a table.

Then last year, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement received complaints that Hurley’s department was abusing the Baker Act, a Florida law that allows law enforcement to involuntary commit someone to psychiatric care. The agency declined to investigate.

Howard Giraldo, president of the Miami-Dade Schools Police Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 133, wouldn’t comment on Hurley’s demotion. But he said the union stands behind acting chief Kitchell, who has been with the department since 1991.

“I’m very disappointed they’re looking on the outside for another chief,” he said.

Interested applicants have until Feb. 28 to apply. The job pays up to $164,000, according to an advertisement on the Florida Police Chiefs Association website.