Beyond Bad Policing
The Tampa Bay Times wrote a story on a horrendous situation that is occurring in Pasco County. Chris Nocco, Sheriff of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, was appointed to the sheriff position while having little law enforcement experience, just a military background. That happened back in 2011. For those who don’t know, a military background is nothing like a law enforcement background. Sheriff Nocco decided that he was going to do something new and had a system developed that, according to him, could predict which individuals were destined to become career criminals.
That’s already a problem. There is not a system in the world that can accurately predict what a person will do several years down the road. But it gets worse. Sheriff Chris Nocco is adding bad policing tactics to his fantasy profiling system. In Sheriff Nocco’s words, “we are going to be proactive.” Proactive. In other words, THEY HAVEN’T DONE ANYTHING YET! That’s not policing, that’s harassment and though he denies it, the sheriff knows that’s exactly what it is.
Who Gets Targeted?
Though some of their methodology is hidden, the reporters did find some information on who goes on their “Prolific Offenders” list. Qualifying for the list is based on a point system. You have to have been arrested twice for charges on their Intelligence Led Policing (ILP) list. From there the points start adding up. Individuals on the list will even get points added to their total if the police suspect they may be involved in a crime. You think that’s crazy? That they could dream up a connection based on a belief, with absolutely no facts to back it up, and that they can then use that fantasy to cause real consequences?
Yeah, well it gets even worse than that. Any person can get points added to their total just for being listed as a witness, and even a victim, on a police report. That’s a sure fire way for people to not want to report crimes and witnesses to not want to speak up. Astoundingly bad policing tactics. For those already on the list, they keep data on everyone related to them, who they work for and who they interact with. And if that is not enough, naturally, there are accusations of deputies falsifying information. Falsifying reports happens in all police agencies but it’s probably even more prevelant in one that is aggressively looking for issues, It wouldn’t take much to step over that line when they’re practically being pushed to do so.
Harassment on Steroids
Once you have been placed on the list, your hell begins. Deputies are instructed to harass those individuals mercilessly. In fact, the harassment is such a huge part of the program that officers who have expressed concern about it being an abuse of power by police and being unethical, have been threatened with demotion and punishment assignments. Deputies have visited houses as much as six times in one day. They have used code compliance as another form of punishment, going to the extent of literally measuring a person’s grass to see if it violated the city ordinance. One former deputy described the directive like this: “Make their lives miserable until they move or sue.”
There are no age limits for who can be on the prolific offenders list. Children as young as 12 have been placed on it. And as long as they’re on the list, they are harassed. This is so traumatic for a child that Kennedy, the John Jay criminologist, called the agency’s tactics “child abuse.” And in fact, It’s highly possible that the suicide of one child is the result of the harassment perpetrated by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. They had information that the child was suicidal and yet they continued their campaign of harassment even though the child had not been in any more trouble.
“Officials at the Department of Juvenile Justice knew Matthew was struggling. They noted in his file at least seven times that he had been cutting himself or had suicidal thoughts.
The Sheriff’s Office acknowledged it had access to a portion of the file that labeled Matthew at risk of suicide. But the department said it would be irresponsible to blame Matthew’s death on its program. It said the program is based on crime data alone, and Matthew qualified.”
So even when they know someone is suidical, they don’t care. Not even if it’s a child.
Drunk on Power
Sheriff Nocco has claimed that his tactics have reduced crime, and it is true that crime has gone down but it has gone down the same amount for several of the large police districts around him. In fact, Pasco County is the only one of that group that has had violent crime go up. According to the article, there doesn’t seem to be a racial bias. In my opinion, there doesn’t need to be. This is no longer a situation where a sheriff is a racist but has to pretend to play by the rules so he targets vulnerable segments of society.
Sheriff Nocco has set himself up as the ultimate ruler of a fiefdom and the people who have continued to elect him don’t even realize it. They don’t understand that the moment they are not happy with something he does and complain about it, he will turn the full force of his agency against them. Who needs a vulnerable segment when everyone under you is vulnerable to your abuse?
We highly recommen you read the article in the Tampa Bay Times. It has a lot more detail and is much more horrific than what this shorter article was able to portray. All but one of the links on the page will take you to their article.