March 10, 2021

Body cam footage of prolific offender checks show deputies threatening to cite family members for innocuous offenses like missing house numbers if they don’t let them into their home or answer their questions. Robert Jones received citations for tall grass and other similar property code violations. Deputies failed to notify him that he was being charged with these violations and then, when he failed to appear for a hearing that he was never told was happening, arrested him for failure to appear.

Pasco deputies often escalated prolific offender checks into arrests when targets or their family members weren’t willing to “cooperate” with them. Once, during a check on Robert’s son, deputies saw his son and his son’s friend through the window of the Jones’ home. The friend was smoking a cigarette. When the two boys wouldn’t come outside to talk to the deputies, and Robert wouldn’t make them come outside, the deputies arrested Robert for “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” and “resisting an officer.” A former Pasco deputy later recalled, “We couldn’t get the kids, so we arrested the dad.”

Including the arrests for missing court hearings about code enforcement fines he didn’t even know about, Robert was arrested five times in total by Pasco deputies. Though the bogus charges never stuck—they were all dropped—the reputational damage was too much to overcome. Before the harassment from Pasco deputies started, Robert dreamed of going to law school and becoming an attorney. But the arrests on his record wrecked his chances of being admitted to the law school, and he had to abandon that dream. He ultimately moved his family out of Pasco County to escape the constant harassment from the Sheriff’s Office. Try as they might, Pasco deputies never succeeded in railroading Robert with their trumped-up allegations. In the end, Robert’s biggest mistake may simply have been moving to Pasco County, where he was arrested so frequently—and for such trivialities—that he had to flee. He has not been arrested since.

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