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Former road patrol commander files to run for Pasco sheriff

A former commander at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office who abruptly resigned last year after Chris Nocco was appointed sheriff has announced he will seek the office.

Former Maj. Maurice Radford, 50, said his departure was nothing personal, but he disagreed with Nocco's philosophy when it came to law enforcement.

"He would come into roll call gatherings to build esprit de corps and talk about 'chasing (suspects) until the wheels fell off' and how 'everybody goes to jail and does the walk of shame,' " Radford said.

Radford said pursuit policies are in place for a reason: to protect deputies' and citizens' safety.

"They put restrictions on when and how you can engage in a pursuit," he said.

Radford also said a diversion program for nonviolent juveniles was not used as often, reflecting the sheriff's view of law enforcement.

"Law enforcement is to help people," Radford said. "If you have a lady with too many cats she can't take care of, do you get her help or do you put her in jail?"

Nocco, 36, who was appointed by the governor last spring to serve the remainder of Bob White's term, said he made few changes to the existing pursuit policy when he took office and that the diversion program has indeed been used.

He said Radford's philosophy of crime fighting was "reactive" as opposed to his proactive approach.

"He said we use zone defense," Nocco said.

As for his tough talk at roll call, Nocco said cheering on his deputies is a priority.

"If they do what's right, we'll support them to the bitter end," Nocco said. "We want them to want to come to work every day."

Radford, who called Nocco "a very nice young man" whose "political aspirations exceed his experience level," described himself as a better choice to hold the job permanently.

He said he decided to file after being asked to run by "people I know personally and formally."

"Pasco has been good to me. I've been a law enforcement veteran for more than 25 years. I'm well qualified and have a proven track record of results," said Radford, who was in charge of road patrol operations.

That track record, says Radford, includes helping develop a volunteer corps to free up deputies for fighting crime; successfully applying for grants, including a federal grant that added 24 deputies to the force; and working with intelligence-led and community policing efforts about a decade ago.

He also has advocated merging dispatch operations with Fire Rescue to save money, and he said administrative jobs could be cut in favor of adding more street patrols.

"Frontline deputies should be our No. 1 priority," he said.

Radford also said he has managed $30 million of the sheriff's budget, and in some years was responsible for White being able to return money to the county.

"With proper planning and working with the (county) Office of Management and Budget in advance, we can help each other on behalf of the taxpayer," he said.

Radford would face Nocco in a four-way Republican primary that also includes Michael Foxx, 66, a retired sergeant from the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office, and Roger Joseph Fortney, 59, a Pasco sheriff's corporal from 1989 to 2009. The Democratic candidates include former sheriff's commander Kim Bogart, 59, and Larry Roberts, 65.

Former road patrol commander files to run for Pasco sheriff 02/21/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 7:45pm]
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