NEW PORT RICHEY, FL (PASCO COUNTY) - According to an online news report posted on fox13news.com, a new federal lawsuit alleges that a Pasco County sheriff violated people's legal rights by using an intelligence-based policing program that inappropriately targets and harasses citizens. The defendant, a Pasco County sheriff, denies the accusations.
The lawsuit filed in Tampa federal court states that the Pasco Sheriff's Office "punishes people for crimes they have not committed and may never commit," a practice called "predictive policing."
Pasco County Sheriff Office stated that the lawsuit's description of the program is false and stated that its "Intelligence-Led Policing Program" is led by an "individual's criminal history or a school student's characterization as being at risk."
The Pasco County Sheriff's Office statement stated that the program does not have the capability to be used as a predictive policing program that concentrates on crimes that an individual might commit in the future. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office states that the at-risk youth program and the prolific offender program focus on serving the community.
The lawsuit has been filed by the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm representing four Pasco County citizens who have faced the Pasco County Sheriff's Office program. The lawsuit intends to end the program.
In acknowledgment of the lawsuit, Representative Matt Gaetz urged Govorner Ron DeSantis to fire Nocco.
According to Gaetz, this is not a political situation but an awful approach to law enforcement that harasses citizens thought to commit crimes in the future by making their lives miserable.
Amanda Hunter, a Pasco County Sheriff's spokeswoman, stated that the Pasco County Sherriff's Office looks forward to defending lawsuits in court.
The lawsuit alleges the Pasco County residents have been harassed or arrested by Pasco County Sheriff deputies who were utilizing the policing program, which examines citizens' arrest histories and examines other data to predict which Pasco County residents likely to commit additional crimes in the future.
A plaintiff in the lawsuit states that she was arrested on two separate occasions after Pasco County Sheriff's deputies came to her home in 2016 to inquire about a dirt bike that her son allegedly purchased with stolen money. In another incident, she was arrested when she opened her screen door, and the screen door hit a Sherriff's deputy's chest. She spent 76 days in jail.
According to a former Pasco County deputy, the lawsuit asserts that the program's goal is to make "targeted persons" continuously miserable until the "targeted person" either moves out of Pasco County or files a lawsuit. The lawsuit states this program infringes upon several constitutional rights.
The lawsuit states that the government cannot punish a person, a person's family, or friends for crimes a person has not committed.
The Pasco County Sheriff's Office stated that the policing program was modeled after the 1990 United Kingdom program and did not target anyone for police harassment. The statement also states the policing program is not anything like the ideals or implementations portrayed in the movie Minority Report.
The lawsuit alleges the Pasco County Sheriff's Office policing program violates the constitutional amendments that protect the rights of association, due process, and unreasonable searches and seizures. It petitions the court to shut down the program, award each plaintiff $1, and pay all attorney fees and lawsuit costs.