Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, challenger Kim Bogart discuss the issues
Published: November 2, 2012
Published: November 2, 2012
Education: University of Louisville Southern Police Institute, administrative officer's course; Saint Leo University, bachelor of arts in business administration, master of business administration; Stanford University Center for Professional Development, leadership for strategic execution course
Family: Married, two children
Home: New Port Richey
Professional experience: Tampa Police Department patrol officer, personnel detective, bomb squad; Pasco Sheriff's Office captain, major; Pasco-Hernando Community College Law Enforcement Academy instructor; St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office reserve deputy; Osceola County Jail interim chief; Florida Corrections Accreditation Commission executive director; Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation Inc. Commission; principal at Bogart & Associates Consulting and Training
Education: University of Delaware, bachelor's degree in criminal justice, master's in public administration; Florida State University, certificate in emergency management; National Sheriff's Institute, 101st class
Family: Married, three children
Professional experience: Philadelphia Public School police officer; Fairfax County Police Department; Broward County Sheriff's Office deputy; deputy chief of staff to then-state House Speaker (now U.S. Sen.) Marco Rubio; chief of staff of the Florida Highway Patrol; Pasco Sheriff's Office captain, major; appointed sheriff April 2011 by Gov. Rick Scott
Q: If money was no object and budgets were approved without constraints, what do you see as the most pressing need for the sheriff's office?
NOCCO —The No. 1 pressing issue in our agency is salaries for our members. This goes across the board from deputies to civilian staff. As part of the Tampa Bay region we compete with agencies that have higher salaries. It is unfortunate when we invest in a member's training to have them leave in a short time to another agency. Utilizing a business mindset, it would be wise to compete with these salaries and retain our members than to lose them after we have invested so much financially into them. We have been fortunate in the last year that the number of people leaving has reduced because we are building an environment where people are excited to work at and we are working together toward success. But they risk their lives the same way others do in our region and their salaries are not commensurate.
The next pressing need is to have more personnel for patrol and detention. It is not unusual for our squads to be at minimum staffing and this hinders proactive enforcement. If we had more deputies we could increase our proactive patrol, increase traffic enforcement and open fully a portion of the jail that we have not been able to due to a lack of personnel.
BOGART — We must significantly improve the sheriff's office's internal and external communication abilities. This is not isolated to improving just the radio communication system, but a much greater, holistic approach to communications overall. We must communicate more effectively and timely with the citizens and businesses we serve. We must also expand our focus on improving communications to include our law enforcement partners, the judiciary, the media, social service providers and community groups.
Internally, the sheriff's office radio dispatch, and the county's 911 fire and emergency dispatch systems, operate independently. This creates inefficiencies and unnecessary delays in responses to calls for service. Callers for sheriff's office services are required to repeat emergency situation information multiple times before needed help is dispatched. Delays in the timeliness and accuracy of this critical information can make the difference between life and death. We must upgrade our radio system technology and consolidate communications center operations.
Externally, the sheriff's of-fice's current process for developing actionable intelligence information is missing two important components. No one knows a neighborhood or community better than the citizens and business owners from that area. The sheriff's office has not established ongoing systems for listening to and communicating with those individuals on a continuing basis.
Also, patrol deputies gather and forward intelligence information to the Intelligence Led Policing Unit. That information is then shared with detectives and specialty squads for targeted areas, but it does not get shared globally back to the regular patrol units on the street who work in zones every day. Timely communication with those zone deputies is critical to addressing our crime problems.
We must establish a more comprehensive intelligence gathering system that includes neighborhood crime watch programs, sheriff's walks, security patrols, community and business partnerships, county department partnerships and advisory councils/committees to optimize our intelligence gathering efforts.
Clearly, resolving our radio communications and 911 system inefficiencies will have a significant fiscal impact. However, resolving the intangible communications issues can be addressed by shifting resources and focused leadership.
Q: In your opinion, are law enforcement resources divided equally among both sides of the county?
NOCCO — Yes, we utilize nationally recognized deployment methods to allocate our resources. By instituting Intelligence Led Policing we have become extremely proactive and our deputies target prolific criminal offenders throughout our county. As sheriff, I worked with county commissioners to save the Officer Friendly program in Dade City and we have had major deployment operations from Holiday to Hudson through to Zephyrhills. We have shut down pill mills and arrest drug dealers throughout our county. We have demonstrated that we will protect everyone who lives throughout our county.
BOGART — The short answer is no — law enforcement resources are not divided equally among both sides of the county. However, when discussing this topic it is important to recognize there is no longer a clear east/west separation. Presently, the sheriff's office has three districts: District 1 (northwest), District 2 (east) and District 3 (southwest).
In recent years, we have experienced a tremendous increase in concentrations of residences and businesses in the Land O' Lakes and Wesley Chapel areas, with more anticipated in the near future. Also, there has been a steady population increase in the unincorporated areas surrounding Dade City and Zephyrhills. Most of the deputy patrol zones in those areas are geographically larger than those in west Pasco.
A variety of factors must be considered when establishing zone sizes: resident and business concentrations, volume of calls for service, natural boundaries such as water bodies and undeveloped land which limit egress and access roadways, acceptable estimated deputy response times to calls for service, and the safety of officers regarding availability of back-up officer help when needed. Frequently, deputies working on the east side of the county respond to serious calls for service and have no back-up help available.
We are long overdue for adjusting deputy work zones in the east Pasco areas. Those zones should be reduced in size and adjusted to accommodate our current needs and future county growth.
Q: Pasco has proven to be a microcosm of what is occurring across the country — synthetic drug abuse, alcoholism, thefts, etc. — what must be done to stifle the crime rate?
NOCCO — In the past year as sheriff, we have lowered the crime rate. Utilizing proactive enforcement, we have proven to be effective in sending a clear message that Pasco is tough on crime. We are working with our local, state and federal partners sharing information and coordinating cases so that we can have as many resources as possible to protect our citizens.
Along with being tough on crime, we have increased our crime prevention efforts and anti-drug education programs with our youth. This is critical so people are aware of how to protect themselves. We are also working hand in hand with the faith-based community. We instituted Celebrate Recovery in our jail and it extends into the community to help families and those dealing with addiction. Building community partnerships have been extremely successful in fighting the drug epidemic.
BOGART — First, many of the robberies, burglaries, and other crimes committed in Pasco County are directly related to drug addiction and substance abuse. Whether it is illegal drugs, synthetic drugs or prescription pills — a three-prong approach is needed to decrease the drug problem in Pasco: enforcement, community education and treatment option awareness.
Aggressive and deliberate enforcement against drug activities must be a priority. This enforcement must focus on addressing citizens' drug complaints, eliminating open street drug sales, identifying and apprehending drug dealers, and systematically eradicating drug houses.
Promoting programs to educate the community, especially children and parents, about the dangers of drugs is a priority. We must saturate our children with the clear and resounding message that drugs are destructive. This message must be delivered early and often. Parents must be provided information on how to talk to their children about drugs.
One of the greatest roadblocks for people with addiction problems is not knowing where to turn for help. Front line deputies must inform citizens about available drug abuse treatment and recovery programs. Expanded drug addiction recovery programs are needed in the jail.
Second, recidivism is the key statistic in determining whether or not criminal justice interventions, including incarceration, are making a difference in keeping offenders from committing more crimes and being re-incarcerated. Low recidivism indicates that offenders who were once in trouble have been helped through diversion, in-jail programming, counseling, substance abuse/mental health treatment or other interventions and are not committing additional crimes. When recidivism is low, citizens are less likely to become victims of a crime and previously incarcerated adults are more likely to be productive citizens of our community.
Currently, deputies are arresting and re-arresting the same individuals. With jail costs on the rise and economic circumstances not improving, it is in our community's best interest to concentrate on re-entry programs that will ensure a safe and long lasting transition into society.
Re-entry is defined as a process, beginning at the time of arrest, which plans for and provides the necessary services and supports to enable the formerly incarcerated individual to re-enter the community, achieve stability and successfully reintegrate back into family and community life without being re-incarcerated. The purpose of the re-entry program is to help inmates return to society — not crime.
A comprehensive inmate community re-entry program must be established through collaboration with public agencies, not-for-profit organizations, businesses, faith-based partners, the Public Defender's Office, Parole and Probation, and other community stakeholders. These partnerships must focus on the areas of housing, substance abuse and mental health, education and employment. Expanded substance abuse counseling and education programs are needed in our jail, and should include criminal and addictive thinking courses for participants in the re-entry program.
Q: What's one of the most important tools the sheriff's office can use to ensure or at least help keep citizens safe?
NOCCO — Along with being tough on crime we have expanded our community outreach extensively. One of the key components of intelligence-led policing is crime prevention. We will be much more successful as a sheriff's office and as a community if people are never a victim of crime — we should not wait for a crime to occur before we take action. By utilizing technology, town hall meetings and crime prevention symposiums, we can share with citizens tips on how to protect themselves, their families and their homes. By reducing the ability of criminals to commit their crimes we are making our citizens safer.
Also, we are building a sheriff's office that is more open to the community by sharing information as it occurs. We want to empower our citizens and make them partners with our sheriff's office.
BOGART — One of the most important tools the sheriff's office can use to help in keeping the public safe is a partnership that promotes open and regular communication between the sheriff's office and the community. The most effective of these partnership programs I have witnessed and will establish in Pasco are sheriff's advisory councils.
These councils are comprised of concerned and interested citizens and business owners in strategic areas throughout the county. Each council serves as an information exchange between the citizens and the sheriff's office. Having regularly scheduled meetings provides participants with an opportunity to communicate directly with sheriff's office commanders on issues of importance to their communities. The groups meet monthly to discuss issues and plan solutions pertaining to their areas of the county. Topics of discussion include but are not limited to criminal activity, vehicular traffic problems, drug houses, home security and community education.
A chairperson elected by the council manages the meetings. The command level supervisors who attend the meetings are responsible for collaborating with the group to plan solutions for identified issues. The supervisor is responsible for directing the necessary resources to resolve the issue. The following month, the group meets again and the supervisor provides updates on sheriff's office efforts and progress made.
These sheriff's advisory councils will also serve as an excellent venue for kindling community interest in crime watch programs and security patrols. Crime prevention awareness and education are constantly being addressed.
Q: In this climate of budget tightening, in what ways will you maximize the resources available? Are there areas of overspending or under funding?
NOCCO — In the past year we have worked on a strategy to overhaul our computer system to create efficiency and effectiveness. We asked members throughout our agency for their input because it is critical that we listen to the needs of our members. We identified that currently 20 to 30 percent of our work was due to redundancy of duplication of data entry.
Upgrading our technology we will free up our deputies to increase proactive activity, we will be able to retrain members and place them in areas where more personnel are needed, and we will be able to provide better service to our citizens.
Along with technology, because we have implemented intelligence-led policing we have become more efficient in our law enforcement duties. intelligence-led policing is a management tool and philosophy that allows us to review data and crime analysis to properly deploy our limited resources to where they will be most effective in fighting crime. We are smarter in our operations since we target prolific offenders and high crime areas. Your Pasco sheriff's office now proactively seeks out criminals and this allows us to be more efficient in protecting seniors, families, children and businesses.
BOGART — With personnel costs accounting for approximately 80 percent of the sheriff's office's $86 million budget, it is critically important to ensure these funds are allocated wisely and to the maximum benefit of all employees. Between 2008 and 2011, a total of 228 sworn law enforcement and corrections members left the Pasco sheriff's office. Some retired and a few were fired, but 125 voluntarily resigned. Forty-four of those now work for other law enforcement agencies. There is a tremendous financial cost associated in screening, selecting, training and equipping each new deputy and to watch them leave is a significant failure of leadership.
Although 44 officers left to work for other law enforcement agencies, the fact that 125 voluntarily left is a red flag that needs to be immediately addressed. Without mechanisms in place to identify specific reasons for each resignation — this mass exodus brings into question the screening and hiring process. It also points to an underlying atmosphere of frustration and anger within the agency.
Generally, individuals do not enter the public safety profession for the pay, nor do they leave because of pay. It is well documented that employees leave an agency for a combination of the four following reasons: lack of leadership, reputation of the agency, lack of advancement opportunities and pay.
In order to recruit and retain officers, there has to be a genuine commitment from leadership. This starts with recruitment — with seeking candidates who have a spirit of service, not just a spirit of adventure. It is equally important to have an effective mentoring program in place. It requires developmental partnerships to share knowledge, skills, information and perspective in order to promote personal and professional growth. Once there is a genuine commitment from leadership, the reputation of the agency improves. Pride, trust and loyalty within the agency grows, and citizens will realize the benefits of a healthier sheriff's office.
Make no mistake about it, deputies have dangerous jobs and deserve to be compensated fairly. I am not saying that we should ignore the pay disparity between what a deputy is paid in Pasco County and what is paid by other surrounding agencies. Measures must be taken soon to lessen that ever-widening gap or we will continue to lose highly trained deputies no matter what is done internally in the department.
Another critical area that is grossly underfunded is in jail staffing. Corrections deputies are routinely required to work mandatory overtime to meet minimum staffing requirements to keep the jail safe. The sheriff's office has more than doubled its overtime budget expenditure for the jail. There are not enough corrections deputies to handle the workload today and this situation is only getting worse.