A Tampa Bay Times investigative series about a Pasco County police initiative continues to earn national honors.
The series Targeted by Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi won “Best in Show” among all newspaper entries in the National Headliner competition, in addition to placing first in the investigative reporting category for larger market newspapers. The Best in Show honor is awarded to a single entry drawn from the winners of more than two dozen newspaper categories.
“With a stunning hit-parade of police body cam footage and starkly written narrative, the Tampa Bay Times uncovers a shocking police practice that amounts to harassing potential wrongdoers from the unwelcoming precincts of Pasco County, Florida,” the judges said in announcing the award on Wednesday.
The National Headliner Awards are administered by the Press Club of Atlantic City and have been bestowed since 1934.
Earlier this month, the series won the Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Journalism, administered by Harvard University. And in April the series won the Scripps Howard Award for local investigative reporting. It has been a finalist for numerous other national awards.
The series exposed a policing initiative in Pasco County that uses computer modeling to identify people that the Sheriff’s Office believed might be likely to commit crimes in the future. About a 1,000 people were monitored under the program, including children.
McGrory and Bedi found that Pasco County residents who got caught in the agency’s sights were subjected to harassment, often having deputies show up at odd hours. More than 12,500 times, deputies checked on the people that a departmental algorithm identified as targets, the Times found. Those targeted were written up for missing mailbox numbers or overgrown grass. One of the goals of the program was to make those who made it onto the agency’s list move away. Four people who said they were victims of Nocco’s policing program have since filed a lawsuit against the sheriff in federal court.
McGrory and Bedi also discovered that the school district in Pasco County shared grades and other information with law enforcement that it used to compile a secret list of students that could fall into a life of crime. Children with D or F grades, or those who had experienced abuse, could land on the list, according to the law enforcement agency’s manual. That raised privacy concerns and prompted a federal investigation.
A nonprofit that sent money to the school district announced it would stop doing so.
This month, the school district and Sheriff’s office announced that it would curtail its data sharing arrangement.