Saturday, December 16, 2017
Education

PHSC responds to allegations about testing, instruction problems

Pasco-Hernando State College acknowledged some problems at its law enforcement academy brought to light by a whistle-blower, including an allegation about incorrect scoring on firearms tests.

However, in a response to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Wednesday, the college said other allegations were relatively minor, quickly corrected and had a lot to do with turnover.

The college identified the complaining employee as Patricia Maxwell in its letter.

According to PHSC spokeswoman Lucy Miller, the academy was "in transition" after the retirement of the previous director. Most of the complaints, she said, came in the first week of April, within weeks of new hires Maxwell and director Charles May.

"We take law enforcement training very seriously and have done so for decades," Miller said. "We do our best to provided exemplary training."

FDLE Bureau of Standards Chief Glen Hopkins had asked PHSC to investigate and address the allegations last month.

There were four main concerns. The first alleged that shotgun firearms qualifications were being incorrectly scored. PHSC acknowledged they were, and they've since corrected the problem as of April. Previous students whose tests may have been scored incorrectly will not be retested, the college said.

The second concern was over testing. FDLE wanted to know whether questions were removed from tests to pass students who otherwise would have failed. The college said in one instance, a test question was removed, and one student went from a failing to a passing grade.

Another concern: instructors being "routinely" absent from classes, which had to be covered by others not prepared to teach the topics. The college provided an attendance list showing Dade City Police Department instructor George Richardson was unable to make it to a training class once. The class, which runs through February, was rescheduled.

"Because of the nature of law enforcement positions," Miller said, "there are times when instructors are delayed or unable to report for their assigned class."

Finally, it was alleged that the student guide for the academy was being used without approval by the college. In response, the college said a new revision was made to reflect the school's recent name change from Pasco-Hernando Community College and to include a new mission statement.

The allegations and subsequent answers come just months before an October deadline imposed by House Speaker Will Weatherford on the college and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office to reach an agreement on running a joint law enforcement academy.

Sheriff Chris Nocco has previously accused the college of not meeting ethical standards, using favoritism in hiring and employing disgruntled former Sheriff's Office workers.

"These are the staff we'd be working with day to day," Nocco said Wednesday. "If these issues are coming from someone already working there, I have some concerns."

He said he's reviewing the college's answers to the FDLE.

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