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Tampa Bay Times reporting about Pasco Sheriff’s program earns national recognition

The series exposed a police intelligence operation that targeted residents and school children based on their potential to commit crimes.
Tampa Bay Times investigative reporters Neil Bedi, left, and Kathleen McGrory have garnered national recognition for their series examining the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. (Boyzell Hosey  |  Times)
Tampa Bay Times investigative reporters Neil Bedi, left, and Kathleen McGrory have garnered national recognition for their series examining the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. (Boyzell Hosey | Times)
Published Mar. 16
Updated Mar. 16

A Tampa Bay Times project that examined a Pasco County police intelligence program is a finalist for two prestigious national journalism prizes.

The series “Targeted” by Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi was named a finalist Tuesday for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting at Harvard University. The prize is administered by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

McGrory and Bedi’s project also was named a finalist last week for a Scripps Howard Award in the Local/Regional Investigative Reporting category.

Their series showed how the Sheriff’s Office in Pasco County uses criminal histories and other information to determine which residents the department believes are likely to break the law. Deputies then relentlessly monitor and harass those residents, McGrory and Bedi’s reporting showed. The program also has identified school children as potential future criminals based on bad grades or trauma they may have suffered at home.

The Times’ series has prompted lawsuits and calls for reform. Last week, Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz urged Gov. Ron DeSantis to consider removing Sheriff Chris Nocco. Meanwhile, four people who said they were victims of Nocco’s policing program filed a lawsuit against the sheriff in federal court.

Criminal justice experts and civil rights groups have criticized Nocco’s initiative, saying that it is an infringement on constitutional rights. The sheriff has stood by his department’s efforts.

The school district, meanwhile, lost more than $1 million in grant funding from a nonprofit that expressed concerns about the district’s role in sharing sensitive student data that helps the Sheriff’s Office target children who got D or F grades.

Other news organizations with finalists for the prize are Reuters; the Indianapolis Star; Politico; a collaboration involving The Marshall Project, AL.com, IndyStar and Invisible Institute; and a collaboration involving The Marshall Project, Mississippi Today, the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger and the USA Today Network.

Finalists for the Goldsmith prize receive $10,000. The winner of the $25,000 grand prize will be announced April 13.

McGrory is now the Times’ deputy editor for investigations. Bedi joined the staff of ProPublica in Washington, D.C., in January.

The Scripps Howard contest will announce winners in its journalism categories April 21. The other finalists in the Local/Regional Investigative Reporting category are USA Today for “Torn Apart” and City Bureau and WBEZ-FM in Chicago for “Where Banks Don’t Lend.”