Editorials

Police power abuse, cell phone spying cost taxpayers big

Joe Edwards in 2007 as Columbia Police chief. He resigned after 24 years following a lawsuit by his ex-wife stating police resources were used to investigate her and tap her cell phone. The city recently settled the suit for $150,000. Carla Edwards is now suing the Columbia school district, claiming employees cooperated with her ex-husband to investigate and try to fire her.
Joe Edwards in 2007 as Columbia Police chief. He resigned after 24 years following a lawsuit by his ex-wife stating police resources were used to investigate her and tap her cell phone. The city recently settled the suit for $150,000. Carla Edwards is now suing the Columbia school district, claiming employees cooperated with her ex-husband to investigate and try to fire her. tvizer@bnd.com

Joe Edwards seemed like a righteous figure leading the Columbia Police.

He was there for 24 years. When Chris Coleman in 2009 murdered his wife and young sons in their beds to be with his wife’s former best friend, Edwards was the face of the investigation that brought Coleman to justice. When the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services returned a baby found in a toilet to a woman later charged with trying to kill the infant, Edwards was there to call them out and speak for the little victim.

At some point after his marriage fell apart in 2014 and he battled for custody of his twin daughters, he went from avenging angel to abusing his police powers. He got his officers to bug his wife’s cell phone. He had them report her to DCFS.

Columbia just settled Carla Edwards’ lawsuit against the city for $150,000. Now she is in federal court suing the Columbia school district, where she works as an elementary school teacher aide, because someone there took information on a flash drive from Joe Edwards and took her cell phone to obtain information from it that was used to try to get her fired and in trouble with state authorities.

Whatever the motives, Joe Edwards had no business investigating his ex-wife. His officer had no business investigating their chief’s ex-wife. This case screams conflict of interest, and all involved with persecuting Carla Edwards need to make this right.

But the reality is that while Joe Edwards paid for his abuses with his job, the others involved will have their roles made right with tax dollars. Some potholes won’t get filled. Some textbooks won’t get updated.

This is not a tough concept: Any whiff of conflict of interest demands that public employees and public leaders keep their hands off the situation.

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