Everything You Need to Know About Pasco County Sheriff Department’s Controversial ‘Predictive Policing’

July 22, 2021 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

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On June 14, 2011, the Pasco County Sheriff Department established ‘The Intelligence-Led Policing Section’ (ILP). It was created “to advance the agency’s crime fighting initiatives to a modern-day philosophy.” ILP consists of 30 members which include a director, manager, two analyst supervisors, and twenty analysts. ILP implemented as one of its strategies a form of ‘predictive policing’, an attempt to stop potential criminal offenders before they can commit any crimes. They do so by sending deputies to the homes of ‘prolific offenders’, many of whom are children.

This predictive policing prolific offenders list is created using a “crude computer algorithm” created by the Sheriff’s Office that creates a list of individuals they believe with commit crimes in the future. Factors in the equation include an individual’s criminal record, whether they have ever been accused or suspected of a crime, whether they witnessed a crime, or even whether they have ever been the victim of a crime. Once the list is created, deputies are sent out to monitor, “intimidate and harass” people on the list. The deputies gather as much data about these individuals as possible, doing so by showing up to their homes unannounced and interrogating them about their family, friends, and plans for the day. Additionally, once someone has been listed as a prolific offender, they and any friends or family they are associated with can be cited for minor code violations for being “uncooperative,” with one woman fined $2,500 for having chickens in her backyard and another fined $3,000 for having tall grass and missing house numbers.

In response to the harassment and intimidation of many children on the prolific offenders list, 30 local, state-based, and national organizations came together to form the People Against the Surveillance of Child and Over-policing (PASCO) Coalition. This coalition seeks to hold the Pasco County School District accountable for its cooperation with ILP. The School District has illegally shared confidential student information, provided confidential student data, and enabled unlawful surveillance of children and profiled of Pasco County students in conjunction with ILP. This data, including absences and grades, law enforcement records, and Florida Department of Children and Families records, are all sent to ILP so they can “identify at-risk youth who are destined for a life of crime.” ILP uses this data to create a list of targeted students and harasses those on the list with illegal surveillance and intimidation.

Recently, the United States Department of Education began an investigation into Pasco County Schools for their cooperation with ILP, specifically the illegal sharing of confidential data. The PASCO Coalition issued a response:

“The school district’s data-sharing policy jeopardizes the safety of vulnerable student populations, exacerbates educational inequities, and violates the rights of students and parents. We applaud the U.S. Department of Education for launching an investigation into the school district’s data-sharing practices. In addition to concerns related to student privacy, we urge the Department to thoroughly examine the unique impact of the school district’s data-sharing policy on students of color, students with disabilities and other vulnerable youth. The PASCO Coalition is hopeful that the Department’s investigation will spark widespread attention to much-needed guidance and training on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which will prevent other schools from sharing private student information that could be used to surveil and police children.”

The Pasco County Sheriff’s Department is also being sued over ILP. The plaintiff’s complaint, filed on March 3, 2021, alleges that the predictive policing program “punishes people for crimes they have not yet committed and may never commit.” Additionally, the complaint argues that the Sheriff’s Department “harasses these people – and their relatives and friends – with relentless visits to their homes at all hours of the day, with unwarranted stops and seizures, and with repeated citations for petty code violations.”

This article was written by Gabi D’Esposito

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