Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Private security company takes over screening duties at West Pasco Judicial Center

NEW PORT RICHEY — The Pasco County Sheriff's Office has turned over screening duties at the entrance of the West Pasco Judicial Center to a private contractor.

Wackenhut Corp. now has guards at the courthouse doors herding visitors through X-ray machines, which frees up bailiffs to work in courtrooms, where state law requires certified law enforcement officers to be posted.

Sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll says the move is a money saver.

"We can have two Wackenhut security officers for the cost of one bailiff, approximately," he said.

Wackenhut has been under contract with the Sheriff's Office since last year to provide security, on an as-needed basis, when jail inmates go to the hospital. The courthouse screeners were added in March. The money for two full-time screeners for the last six months of this budget year — about $79,000 — is coming from an open bailiff's position. Their pay starts at $13 an hour.

Next year, Doll said, the agency wants to fill that position and replace another bailiff who is planning to retire. So Sheriff Chris Nocco, in his budget request to the County Commission this week, called for an additional $200,000 for next year's Wackenhut contract. Overall, the sheriff's proposed budget is about $3 million less than the previous year's.

The Wackenhut guards, who for now are working only at the New Port Richey courthouse and not in Dade City, are armed with 9mm Glock handguns and undergo 80 hours of training before beginning work. At least one armed deputy remains at the courthouse entrance with them at all times, Doll said.

An increase in court cases — from foreclosure hearings to pain pill busts — has resulted in overtime expenses to pay bailiffs. Doll said retired bailiffs were being called to help fill the gaps. Hiring Wackenhut has alleviated some of that, he said.

The company, based in South Florida, has a checkered past with area law enforcement. In 2009, a Wackenhut guard working in Hernando County was fired for sleeping during his break at the government center. And last year, former Pasco Sheriff Bob White terminated a contract with Wackenhut after one of its guards, working at the Juvenile Assessment Center, struck a young inmate.

Doll defended that decision this week and said that otherwise, "they have a long history of satisfactory service with law enforcement."

The contract expires in September but has an automatic one-year renewal clause, which calls for a "minimum 3 percent automatic increase in the labor and non-labor bill rates for the renewal year."

Does that indicate a 3 percent raise for the private guards, while Pasco deputies are seeing no pay increase?

Doll said the 3 percent is "just an increase that would go to Wackenhut. They're a corporation — they can do with it what they want."

He added that the renewal and the increase are negotiable.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at or (727) 869-6245.

Private security company takes over screening duties at West Pasco Judicial Center 06/03/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 3, 2011 8:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Former CEO of Winn-Dixie parent joining Hong Kong company


    The former CEO of the Jacksonville-based parent of Winn-Dixie grocery stores, Ian McLeod, has landed a new leadership role in Hong Kong. He is joining the pan-Asian based Dairy Farm International Holdings Ltd. as group chief executive.

    Ian McLeod, who is stepping down as the CEO of the parent company of Winn-Dixie, has been hired by Dairy Farm International Holdings. 
[Photo courtesy of Southeastern Grocers]
  2. Eckerd Kids: Teens in group foster homes must be allowed to keep phones


    TAMPA — For many teens still reeling from being taken into foster care, a cell phone is a lifeline, child advocates say.

    Eckerd Kids, the agency that runs child welfare in Tampa Bay, will in January require agencies that run group foster homes to allow children to use cell phones. Some group homes are concerned that children may use phones for unathorized contract with their parents or other adults or to post pictures of other foster children on social media
  3. Hillsborough Democrats call Confederate monument vote a continuation of white supremacy


    TAMPA — Two days after Hillsborough County commissioners decided not to touch a Confederate monument in downtown Tampa, Hillsborough County Democrats have decided to weigh in.

    On Friday afternoon, Hillsborough County Democrats decried a vote by the county commission not to remove the Confederate monument in downtown Tampa.
  4. For starters: Ramus to DL, Peterson back, no further moves


    We were expecting a flurry of roster moves this afternoon and we got one. OF Colby Ramus is on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to June 19 with left hip tendinitis.

    Colby Ramus is on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to June 19 with left hip tendinitis.
  5. Editorial: Failure to invest in transit means fewer HART routes


    It was simple economics that forced HART, Hillsborough County's mass transit agency, to cut its bus routes. The agency will focus its resources on the more crowded urban core, limiting service in the suburbs in an effort to get more bang for the buck. These are the hard choices communities must make when they refuse to …

    Hillsborough Area Regional Transit is cutting bus routes from 41 to 34. Those in more rural areas will find it harder to catch a bus.