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Chris Nocco for Pasco County sheriff

After 18 months on the job, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco has earned the chance to keep that title for another four years. Nocco, a 36-year-old Republican appointed by the governor to succeed the retiring Bob White, is opposed in the Nov. 6 general election by Democrat Kim Bogart (who appears on the ballot as K. Bogart).

Bogart, 60, a senior commander under two former sheriffs, has spent most of the past 12 years directing the Florida Corrections Accreditation Commission and doing consulting work with other law enforcement agencies. He has the education, experience and knowledge to lead the Sheriff's Office, but he fails provide a compelling reason for replacing Nocco.

Bogart criticizes the sheriff as a green leader who got his job through political connections – similar to the way a then-32-year-old Bogart joined the agency as a major in 1985 even though he'd spent the prior five years in the construction industry. And Bogart is kidding himself and voters when he downplays the agency's political climate during his employment there. Now a Democrat, Bogart and several Sheriff's Office employees joined the Pasco Republican Executive Committee in the late 1980s to protect the political fortunes of their boss, Jim Gillum. Later, under Lee Cannon, a Democrat, the careers of some employees perceived as potential political rivals took a turn for the worse.

Bogart, who lost an election bid to White four years ago, has made a push for agency accreditation a centerpiece of this campaign. That is understandable, but not an exclusive prerequisite for a well-run department. Accreditation — outside reviews of policies and operations — is a widely used risk-management tool, but it doesn't guarantee infallibility because human errors still occur. The pending $8.6 million judgment against the agency stemming from a 2005 crash in which a speeding deputy severely injured a then-21-year-old woman occurred while the agency carried accreditation. White eliminated the accreditation after his 2008 re-election and Nocco now concurs, saying he'd rather dedicate needed staff to crime fighting rather than desk jobs.

Since becoming sheriff in spring 2011, Nocco has put a renewed emphasis on pro-active law enforcement and on securing resources to fight prescription drug abuse. He has repaired the working relationship with the county commission that had been damaged by White's arrogance, bellicosity and overblown budget requests. Nocco's cooperative approach to police work has translated into a merged SWAT team under the command of New Port Richey police and rekindled discussions about countywide public safety dispatching that now is divided among the Sheriff's Office, fire/rescue and individual city departments. It's the kind of efficient governing that should be the norm after four years of plunging property values.

Nocco is a leader and voters should keep him leading the county's top law enforcement agency.

For Pasco County sheriff, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Chris Nocco.

Opportunity to reply

The Times offers candidates not recommend by its editorial board an opportunity to respond. Replies should be sent by 5 p.m. Monday to C.T. Bowen, Pasco/Hernando editor of editorials, Tampa Bay Times, 11321 U.S. 19, Port Richey, FL 34668. By fax to 727-869-6233 or by e-mail to Replies are limited to 150 words.

Chris Nocco for Pasco County sheriff 10/18/12 [Last modified: Thursday, October 18, 2012 4:52pm]
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