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FDLE calls for inquiry into Pasco police academy’s training

Published:   |   Updated: July 8, 2014 at 03:41 PM

— The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has asked Pasco-Hernando State College to look into claims of possible training discrepancies in the college’s law enforcement academy.

The allegations involve incorrect scoring for firearms qualifications; possible test revisions that allowed failing students to pass a course; and routine absenteeism among instructors.

FDLE’s Bureau of Standards learned about the allegations June 13 and sent a letter to college President Katherine Johnson on June 23 detailing the reported discrepancies and asking the college to “conduct a preliminary inquiry into these issues” and make a report to FDLE.

“We will take appropriate action based on the outcome of your findings and in consultation with the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission,” wrote Glen W. Hopkins, bureau chief for the FDLE Bureau of Standards.

Hopkins could not be reached for comment. Lucy Miller, spokeswoman for PHSC, said Monday that the college would not respond to questions until the inquiry is completed.

The concerns were reported to FDLE by someone identified in the letter only as “the advanced and specialized training coordinator.”

Among the allegations:

♦ An incorrect scoring method was used for firearms qualifications. The problem with scoring was rectified, according to Hopkins’ letter, but students who participated in earlier firearms classes were not required to re-qualify.

♦ Five students in one course reportedly benefited from some questions being removed from an end-of-course exam, allowing them to receive a passing grade.

♦ Instructors were routinely absent and their classes had to be covered by coordinators or last-minute instructors who may not have been prepared to teach the topic. At least once class was dismissed because the instructor was absent, and other classes may have been dismissed early.

♦ In one class, students were dismissed early because the instructor completed the course of instruction and did not feel that additional time was necessary to cover the material.

♦ Students were using a student guide that was not approved by the college.

The concerns raised by FDLE comes at a time when the college is trying to repair strained relations with Sheriff Chris Nocco, who has expressed such dissatisfaction with the law enforcement academy that at one point he discussed with the Pasco County school district the creation of a separate academy.

The sheriff’s office cited concerns with equipment, access to facilities and classrooms, and the academy’s east Pasco location. The sheriff also claimed that 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 state House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who sponsored a bill this year that gave the college and the sheriff an Oct. 1 deadline to reach an agreement regarding the operation of PHSC’s law enforcement academy.