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Despite PHSC police academy's perfect audit, Pasco and Hernando sheriffs still plan to leave

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco has criticized the academy’s instructors, facilities and procedures.

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco has criticized the academy’s instructors, facilities and procedures.

NEW PORT RICHEY — As one of her main points to keep the Pasco Sheriff's Office from ceding from Pasco-Hernando State College's police academy, president Kathryn Johnson pointed out that the academy had recently received a flawless audit by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The argument didn't move members of the Region 9 Criminal Justice Training Commission, at least not enough to keep them from approving an FDLE-sanctioned "needs assessment" of the college to see if, in fact, the academy meets the requirements for training incoming cadets.

If it does not, the Sheriff's Office is expected to move toward establishing an academy run by the Pasco School District. Ray Gadd, Pasco assistant superintendent, said he expects the assessment will happen in May.

This week, the college distributed the audit, noting in a press release that "FDLE evaluated academy expenditures, recordkeeping, and facilities as well as administrative operations, instruction and curriculum." Nancy Bunch, PHSC's director of public service programs, received an award for the spotless audit from Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission, the release announced.

The academy — namely its instructors, facilities and hiring procedures — has come under fire in the past year by Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco.

Lindsey Moore, the sheriff's legal counsel, addressed the commission last month, pointing as far back as 2009 to an incident in which the college fired three academy officials after video surfaced of an instructor engaged in a sex act with a cadet, as well as other incidents with instructors.

As recently as last year, Moore noted, two people were fired and Bunch was put on probation after a sexual harassment complaint.

Bunch was set to retire at the end of January but agreed to stay in her position while the college continues to interview for her replacement. The college isn't looking at internal candidates or any from the Sheriff's Office, said spokeswoman Lucy Miller. All of the candidates are from Florida.

The results of the audit didn't sway Nocco from wanting to break away from the college.

"The scope of the audit was very narrow and did not include classroom observation, nor report the faulty range equipment we unfortunately had to train on," he told the Times. "Overall our concern was that the academy did not want to partner with us, fortunately we found a partnership with the Pasco public schools."

The Hernando Sheriff's Office is backing out of the college, too, and returning to Criminal Justice Training Region 6 where it will work with Withlacoochee Technical Institute.

"They're excited about us coming up there and bringing the training dollars that we bring," said Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis. "That, combined with all the unrest in Pasco, is why I felt the need … to make the move."

Contact Alex Orlando at aorlando@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6247.

Despite PHSC police academy's perfect audit, Pasco and Hernando sheriffs still plan to leave 02/14/14 [Last modified: Friday, February 14, 2014 7:23pm]
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