Kim Bogart, Democratic candidate for Pasco County Sheriff, has been digging into agency reports for information on the conduct of its employees.
On Wednesday, he expressed concern about what he found.
In a press conference, Bogart, who is running against incumbent Sheriff Chris Nocco for the job of top cop, outlined four cases.
In January, deputies went to the home of Tommy Garcia to make contact regarding an accusation that he had committed rape weeks earlier. He was not home, and they left. It’s unclear whether return visits were made. Another rape occurred weeks later. A different deputy arrested Garcia, who was charged with four counts of sexual battery, in February.
“There is no excuse for delaying an arrest,” Bogart said.
In another instance, Bogart said a female detention deputy made allegations about an off-duty sexual encounter with a male deputy that were untrue. An internal investigation concluded a charge of untruthfulness. That charge was later downgraded to “inaccurate statements.” She was suspended for five days.
In September, a civil deputy was accused of sexual battery against a civilian. He was not arrested, but he was investigated. The state attorney’s office elected not to file in the case. The deputy resigned Oct. 2.
And in August, the public did not learn about a home invasion and rape until five days later, after the Tampa Bay Times reported it.
“Incidents like these, I think, are quite embarrassing,” he said. “These cases coming to the light of the public might shake someone’s confidence."
Nocco describes Bogart’s claims as “just desperate political attacks.”
“We hold ourselves accountable for our actions,” Nocco said. “We start the investigations ourselves.”
Bogart said deputies came forward to him about the cases.
“These are deputies that are concerned, angry, frustrated by the handling of these cases,” Bogart said.
Bogart Says Alleged Misconduct in Cases is 'A Huge Deal'
It’s the agency’s responsibility to make sure there are rules and policies in place for dealing mistakes or deputy conduct. Bogart said these cases were handled in a way that they flew under the radar of state law enforcement investigators and the public.
“We have to hold our sheriff’s office to a high level, and yes, it does certainly rest on the administration and certainly on the sheriff’s shoulders,” he said.
Bogart said 228 deputies left the agency over a four-year period. Of those, 125 left voluntarily. Some have gone on to work for other agencies, Bogart said.
He said a deputy copied him on an email sent to media about the corrections deputy case and said that his frustration was clear.
The case “may not seem like a big deal,” he said. “It’s a huge deal. We’re talking about lying under oath and then treating it as, well, somebody not being entirely truthful. You can never lower that standard.”
In an answer to a Tampa Tribune reporter’s question about whether he thought there was a pattern of setting the bar lower than maybe it should be, Bogart’s answer was “Yes. ... Absolutely that is the case.”
Bogart, a former sheriff’s office captain and major, helped the agency get accreditation. That accreditation was discontinued last decade, and getting the agency accredited again is a focus of Bogart’s campaign. He would like the agency to produce an annual report that includes a tally of complaints against deputies. He also wants to have a discipline matrix.
“I would hold the agency to a higher standard,” he said.
Nocco, Deputies Respond to Criticism
Nocco said "the sad part" of Bogart's claims was that he's "attacking the integrity of our members and the quality of their work."
Nocco’s staff responded to Bogart’s claims.
Sgt. Jeff Peake, of the East Side major crimes division, explained the investigation into alleged rapist Tommy Garcia took time. He said that a deputy initially had one woman who claimed being raped. Eventually, he got a call with a partial tag description of the vehicle. He attempted to find other victims, but they didn't come forward.
The deputy did visit Garcia's house, but Peake didn't know if he returned. He sent all the evidence he collected to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. While legwork continued on the case, the second rape occurred.
He said deputies had not received reports of Garcia being involved in other rapes until the second rape.
Inspector Mike Jenkins, head of the Internal Affairs department, said that in the case of the detention deputy who made accusations about a sexual encounter with her fellow deputy, there were mitigating circumstances that led to a reduced charge.
Those mitigating circumstances included the fact that the claims were made about an incident that happened off-duty. There was also no formal complaint made about the detention deputy who was investigated. Her bosses started investigating it after hearing third-party rumors.
Maj. Ed Beckman, who is in charge of the Land O’ Lakes jail, said that he made the initial determination of untruthfulness. He said the five-day suspension was nothing to sneeze at and “at the end of the day, she got a very clear message.”
In the case of the sexual battery case with the civil deputy, authorities encountered a “he-said, she-said” situation and lack of evidence to the point they could not prove probable cause for arrest.
In the case of the home invasion and rape not being disclosed to the public until the Times enquiry, spokesman Kevin Doll said that the agency has to weigh what they disclose to the public with the integrity of an investigation. They could not give out the address of the home where the rape occurred. Deputies were still investigating.
Doll said he and fellow spokesman Doug Tobin frequently have to make tough decisions in cases like that.