Jun 07, 2023

Police lieutenant admits jailing toddler over potty training

DAYTONA BEACH SHORES, Fla. — Video footage from the Volusia County Sheriff's Office appears to show Daytona Beach Shores Police Lt. Michael Schoenbrod admit that he and his child’s mother, Sgt. Jessica Long, brought their 3-year-old child into a jail cell on two consecutive days last October.

In the video, Schoenbrod admitted to briefly handcuffing his child in the jail cell, and said he and Long brought the child there because he wasn’t potty trained.

Schoenbrod made the admissions during an October interview with Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF), which was captured on body camera video worn by a deputy with Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.

The agency previously released the video footage to other parties in response to public records requests — but up until Tuesday, VCSO refused to release it again, citing a mysterious court order that the county clerk’s office confirmed to Spectrum News does not exist.

“In this case, there is no order yet,” the Volusia County Clerk of Courts wrote to Spectrum News in a July 12 email.

On Monday, a Volusia County judge denied confidentiality for a court case involving Schoenbrod and Long that has for months remained completely sealed from public view. Under Florida law, all court sealing orders must be published to the public, and decisions about whether or not to seal a case must be made at a public hearing, within 30 days of the sealing request being filed.

But it was April 3 — more than three months ago — when a motion was filed to seal the case involving Schoenbrod and Long, according to the Volusia County Clerk of Courts. “The rule calls for an order within 30 days and indeed that time has lapsed,” the clerk confirmed to Spectrum News in an email.

Monday’s hearing arose from an expedited motion to determine confidentiality, filed late last month by the Florida Center for Government Accountability and amended last week to include Spectrum News partners at the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

In the body camera video Spectrum News received from VCSO Tuesday, Schoenbrod is heard speaking with a DCF investigator, explaining why he and Long decided to bring their 3-year-old into a jail cell on Oct. 5 and 6. Most of the video is blurred out to conceal information that’s protected under Florida statute: like the location of a law enforcement officer’s home and the identity of a minor child.

“They want your child potty trained by the time they’re 3years old, or they say you can’t go there,” Schoenbrod told the DCF investigator, apparently referencing the child’s nursery school or daycare center, the name of which was redacted.

“Oh dear,” the investigator is heard replying.

Schoenbrod told the investigator that the daycare center staff had been “lenient” with his son, adding that he was then 3-and-a-half years old, and did not always make it to the toilet in time.

“Name something, I've tried it. When it comes to getting him to poop on the potty, and discipline, I've tried it,” Schoenbrod said. He said that’s why he and Long took their son to jail at the Daytona Beach Shores police station.

“You’re not following the rules, let’s go to jail,” Schoenbrod said. “So yes, (I) took him there and put him inside a jail cell. Had eyes on him the entire time, never left him unaccompanied.”

Schoenbrod told the CPI he brought his son to the jail cell on Oct. 6 and kept him in there for about 13 minutes. In the video, he said Long initially brought the child there for a shorter length of time, three to five minutes, on Oct. 5.

Schoenbrod also admitted to briefly placing his son in handcuffs, with the cuffs in front of his body, on Oct. 6. He said Long did not ever place the child in handcuffs.

“The whole time that he was there, he was crying. He was upset. Which is the response I was wanting from him,” Schoenbrod told the investigator. “Wanting him to know that … there’s consequences of not following the rules. And he was just sitting there. So it’s not like he was thrown in there, or the handcuffs were behind his back.”

When the CPI asked Schoenbrod why they chose to discipline their son in this way, as opposed to other methods, Schoenbrod explained he’d previously used the tactic with his older child, and found it successful. Schoenbrod said he and another woman — not Long — split custody of that older child.

“I have a 13-year-old son. When he was 4, his teacher told me he hit a girl and (I) did the same thing,” Schoenbrod said.

Schoenbrod said he asked his older son whether he had hit the girl, and he said yes, to which Schoenbrod replied: “You know Daddy puts guys who hits girls in jail, right? … Well, let’s go to the jail.”

“(I) took him to the jail and he sat there, and I watched him, just like this. And he was crying and everything,” Schoenbrod said. “And to this day, if you mention that incident, he’s just like, ‘Ahh, I would never do that again.’ It was effective. So that’s why I did it with this.”

The DCF investigator asked Schoenbrod whether another allegation the agency received was true: That Schoenbrod and/or Long put human feces on their child’s face, as added punishment. Schoenbrod vehemently denied that allegation.

“I don’t even know where that came from. I mean, that’s absolutely disgusting,” Schoenbrod said in the video.

Schoenbrod was placed on administrative leave on July 3 pending an internal investigation, according to a signed memo the city of Daytona Beach Shores provided to Spectrum News. Long is not on administrative leave and she is not the subject of any internal investigations, according to the city.

As of Wednesday afternoon, two days after a judge denied the officers’ request for confidentiality, the court case’s docket remained completely sealed to public view. The Volusia County Clerk of Courts told Spectrum News earlier this week it is awaiting a signed order to determine how to move forward.