NEW PORT RICHEY — After months of controversy, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco and Pasco-Hernando State College reached an agreement Tuesday evening on the operation of the college’s law enforcement academy.
The approval of the interlocal agreement came more than a month before a deadline set by the state Legislature.
“While it took time to work through details, we feel this agreement is in the best interests of everyone concerned.” PHSC Board Chairman Len Johnson said. “With this understanding in place, we can continue PHSC’s long tradition of educating cadets who are prepared to meet the demands of employment in law enforcement and advancing the education of those members of the community currently serving in law enforcement.”
Among other things, the two-year agreement, approved at a special meeting of the college Board of Trustees, gives the sheriff input into the hiring of the program’s instructors.
Relations between the sheriff’s office and the college began deteriorating last year, and Nocco at one point discussed working with the Pasco County school district to operate a separate law enforcement academy.
The sheriff’s problems with the college’s academy included concerns about equipment, access to facilities and classrooms, and the academy’s east Pasco location. The sheriff also maintained the academy allowed unqualified instructors to teach specialized classes and did not allow “many of our qualified members to instruct at the academy.”
The rift drew the attention of Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who introduced a bill in the Legislature this year that gave the sheriff’s office and the college until Oct. 1 to reach an agreement on the academy’s operation.
Equipment is one of the issues addressed in the agreement, which says the college and the sheriff will collaborate to determine equipment needs, whether replacement or repair of equipment is needed and how to pay for it.
If the sheriff determines that equipment is outdated or substandard, he also has the option of replacing it at his cost.
The college’s Board of Trustees approved an earlier version of the interlocal agreement July 15 and sent it to the sheriff for his signature. The agreement approved Tuesday night includes a few changes in the language that the sheriff’s office made.
The agreement takes effect Monday and expires Oct. 31, 2016. The previous version of the agreement expired a year earlier.