Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz is calling on his state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, to remove a Tampa Bay area sheriff for violating people’s rights with a new predictive policing program.
The program currently being used in Pasco County, Florida, “analyzes arrest histories and other data to predict which residents are most likely to commit crimes in the future,” according to Fox 13 News.
After receiving criticism that the program is akin to predictive policing, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco’s office released a statement arguing that its ‘Intelligence-Led Policing program’ is not a predictive policing program, and is actually guided by an individual’s criminal history or a student’s characterization as being ‘at-risk.’
“Far from being a predictive policing program that focuses on future crimes that someone may commit, the prolific offender program and the at-risk youth program are focused on serving our community,” the statement said.
A lawsuit pertaining to the program has been filed by the Institute for Justice, representing four residents of Pasco County who have been subject to the sheriff’s program. The suit claims that the Pasco Sheriff’s Office “punishes people for crimes they have not committed and may never commit.”
The main contention of the lawsuit is that deputies used the program to harass or arrest residents.
One plaintiff in the lawsuit, Tammy Heilman, asserts that she was “arrested twice after deputies came to her house in 2016 to ask about a dirt bike that her son may have bought with stolen money,” according to Fox 13.
Heilman was later arrested for opening the screen door of her house into a deputy’s chest, spending 76 days in jail.
Quoting an unnamed former Pasco County deputy, the lawsuit alleges that the purpose of the program was to make targeted persons “miserable until they move or sue.”
The lawsuit claims that the program violates the Constitution, specifically the rights of association and due process, and the protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. It seems that Representative Matt Gaetz agrees with this assertion.
Gaetz responded to the lawsuit by calling for Governor Ron DeSantis to remove Nocco. The representative tweeted:
“I don’t care that this is being done by a GOP Sheriff.
Its awful to harass citizens because you think they may commit crimes, hoping to ‘make their lives miserable.’
I don’t care that this is being done by a GOP Sheriff.
Its awful to harass citizens because you think they may commit crimes, hoping to “make their lives miserable.”@GovRonDeSantis has the authority to remove @ChrisNocco & should consider doing so.https://t.co/oHlpMjgubX
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) March 12, 2021
The Bottom Line
Matt Gaetz is correct. Even if you do have a criminal history, using a program to predict that someone will offend again and monitoring or harassing them is a violation of their constitutional rights. Former criminals don’t always reoffend, many of them turn their life around and become model citizens. They should not be subject to scrutiny by the police unless they are doing something wrong. There is a difference between 1) an officer witnessing something illegal, such as pulling someone over for speeding, running their criminal record, and acting accordingly from there, and 2) an officer harassing someone who is doing nothing wrong because a program said they might break the law in the future.