BARTOW, Fla. - Editor's note: This story was updated on April 26, 2023, to remove the bus driver's identity. FOX 13 learned that court documents pertaining to the case are no longer online and a press release originally posted by the Polk County Sheriff's Office has since been removed. As a precaution, the editorial team made the decision to remove the individual's name and image.
Polk County deputies arrested a school bus driver on one count of felony criminal mischief after they say he repeatedly damaged the video surveillance system hard drive on his bus.
According to deputies, he was suspected of damaging the device on four separate occasions, which hindered Polk County Public Schools' investigations into several complaints against the individual.
In September 2021, PCPS received a complaint regarding him and sent a specialist to retrieve the video from the onboard camera. However, the video could not be retrieved due to the fact that the hard drive and wires were damaged, according to PCSO. The hard drive was replaced.
Deputies say two months later, PCPS received a complaint from a parent whose child rides the bus, regarding bullying by other students. They sent another safety specialist to retrieve the video, but once again there was no video due to the same type of damage to the video system hard drive and wires. The hard drive was replaced.
According to PCSO, in January 2022, the man's supervisor had a heated phone conversation with him while he was on the bus. She sent a specialist to retrieve the video evidence of the conversation for disciplinary reasons, and again the system was damaged, and no video existed. It was again replaced.
After the third incident, PCPS suspected the bus driver was intentionally damaging the hard drives. His supervisor told him that another complaint was received and that they were going to retrieve video from the bus. No video existed due to the same type of damage to the hard drive, according to deputies.
PCPS contacted the sheriff’s office to investigate. Detectives interviewed the driver and say he eventually admitted that he had damaged all four hard drives because he "did not want to get in trouble at work."
Deputies say at this time it does not appear he damaged the equipment to avoid any other crime being committed on the bus, but the investigation is ongoing.
PCPS said that each hard drive is worth $360, with total damage equaling $1,440.
He was arrested and released from the Polk County Jail after posting $1,000 bond.