Sunday, November 19, 2017
Opinion

How Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco quickly earned respect

RECOMMENDED READING


Before election day, Sheriff Chris Nocco and his supporters will carefully calculate opportunities to increase his appeal to voters. It's already impossible to turn on your TV and not catch him warning criminals or displaying a cache of confiscated weapons.

But if the young sheriff is to keep the job Gov. Rick Scott gave him after Bob White quit in the middle of his third term, he may look back on an incident at the jail last year involving a raging, violent, naked man.

On May 6, less than a week after Nocco took the oath of office, he toured the Land O'Lakes jail with some of his brass. At 3:55 p.m., the routine shattered.

"10-24! J Wing!''

Deputy Jeffrey Lissoy yelled a second time into his radio.

"10-24!''

Every cop knows that means trouble, send help. Nocco led the sprint to J Wing where Lissoy and Deputy Wesley Flood were rolling on the concrete floor with a stocky 200-pound inmate. Five months earlier, Aaron Michael Beverly, 20, had been charged in Zephyrhills with beating a disabled 56-year-old man nearly to death. Beverly, himself, had been described by his parents as mentally disabled, the result of a head injury in 2004 when he was hit by a car.

It's not clear what set Beverly off. He was taking a shower and then screamed several times, "Can someone help me with my gown?'' A camera positioned just outside the shower room captured the fracas as Beverly attacked and the others came running.

Because they used force, each deputy — along with the sheriff — had to write reports. Nocco, a big man who played offensive line at the University of Delaware in the late 1990s, secured Beverly's legs so he'd stop kicking. Then, as the inmate attempted to bite Sgt. James Rollston, "I placed my foot on his abdomen,'' Nocco wrote.

After Beverly was secured, Nocco and the others examined scratches on their arms and hands as they applied disinfectant. Beverly later was transferred to a state mental facility, where he remains.

In the scheme of things, this wasn't exactly like bringing down John Dillinger. It didn't make the newspapers or TV. But at the jail, where the battle lines are most apparent, the rank and file took notice.

Last month, I spent several hours there working on a story about the Rev. Howard Grimmenga, who serves as chaplain for jail employees. Officials allowed me to hang around the cafeteria and didn't seem too concerned about the presence of a newspaper reporter. That, I can tell you, is unusual.

So, naturally, I took the opportunity to ask folks how they liked the sheriff. We're not talking scientific poll or anything like that. Maybe 8 to 10 employees, including a few civilians. But everybody mentioned how Nocco had "taken down'' a prisoner in his first week on the job.

A few grizzled sergeants especially admired Nocco's willingness to get his hands dirty. In this business, toughness gets high marks. Old-timers in Citrus County still talk about the first Sheriff Charles Dean (1928-45), a big man who used to toss his hat into bars and then follow it in to bust heads John Wayne style. His son, now a state senator, served as Citrus sheriff from 1981-96.

And while Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd isn't going to scare many people with his size, he delights his fans with tough talk.

Nocco has a ways to go before he can match Judd in that department. At 36, he has a lot to learn about being sheriff, period.

But in a few frantic moments at the county jail, he earned something vital from people he must lead.

Respect.

Comments

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise — for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system — one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17

Editorial: Deputies’ rescue reflects best in law enforcement

The bravery two Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies showed a week ago is a credit to them and reflects the professionalism of the office.Deputies Benjamin Thompson and Trent Migues responded at dusk Nov. 11 after 82-year-old Leona Evans of Webster...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/17/17

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trump’s latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included — along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election — an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17