McGuire Megna Attorneys, An Association of Professionals

Why is Sheriff Chris Nocco Hiding Behind a Skirt?

Why is Sheriff Chris Nocco Hiding Behind a Skirt?

Human history is fraught with such characters. Leaders who refuse to lead and leaders who can’t lead.  If leadership was not thrust upon them by fate or fortune, they may have possessed some qualities of leadership but ultimately failed for one reason-they lacked character.  Such figures remain in the shadow of human history usually in contradistinction to a real leader.  In World War II, there is the example of Neville Chamberlain and Sir Winston Churchill.

Character is demonstrated by the courage of one’s convictions and in time of crisis a willingness to lead in spite of the difficulty.  Leaders inspire confidence in their subordinates through their willingness to put their lives and reputations on the line for their convictions.

Yesterday, a gun was accidentally discharged in the cafeteria of a middle school in Pasco County.  The incident occurred in the Thomas E. Weightman Middle School in Wesley Chapel at around 12:40 p.m., according to a spokesperson for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. There were no injuries to any students, staff members or the school resource officer (SRO).

Lt. Troy Ferguson told reporters in a briefing yesterday that the SRO—who was not named by the department—had been assisting with lunch duty when his “holstered weapon unintentionally discharged.” The bullet fired behind him, striking a tile floor and brick wall.

Ferguson confirmed that an investigation has since been launched to determine exactly what had happened. He noted that the SRO has been temporarily reassigned, per protocol. It is believed the officer was leaning against a wall at the time. The firearm was a Sig Sauer 9mm.

“Lt. Ferguson told reporters”?  Where was the Sheriff?  A major incident occurs at a middle school where children could have been injured and the leader of the primary law enforcement agency in the county is nowhere to be found.  One of the primary responsibilities of the top cop in Pasco County, or any county in Florida for that matter, is to take charge in moments of crisis.  He is supposed to be the main spokesperson in order to demonstrate who is in charge and reassure the public that the safety of our children is his top priority.  But he wasn’t there.  It reminded me of a scene in HBO’s Band of Brothers where the soldiers keep repeating the mantra, “Where’s Lt. Dyke?”  Dyke was nicknamed “Foxhole Norman” for his absence during the bloody siege of Bastogne during WWII.

Similar things can be asked of Sheriff Nocco.  Where was he?  I suspect he was hiding behind a skirt.  He’s famous for having an open door policy for his deputies in the Pasco Sheriff’s Department but none of the deputies and officers with whom I’ve spoken have ever been allowed to speak to the Sheriff when they requested a meeting.  I suspect he doesn’t want to speak with deputies because he fears he may be deposed at some future point if the dispute leads to a lawsuit.  A few years ago, the Sheriff was sued by a deputy.  When it came time to take the Sheriff’s deposition, he filed a protective order so that he didn’t have to provide the deposition.  What is he hiding?

That’s not leadership.  It’s careerism.  It reflects a lack of character and plenty of cowardice.  It reflects the actions of someone who is interested in feathering his own nest in the interests of career advancement.  Nocco may be interested in running for Congress some day and wants to keep his nose clean so he avoids any trouble by keeping his head down and avoiding his own deputies when they need leadership.

The School Resource Officer whose gun accidentally discharged will be left behind like a wounded soldier on the battlefield.  Regardless of the outcome of the investigation-whether there is evidence that the weapon was defective or the officer made an error-it doesn’t matter.  Nocco won’t meet with him to hear his side of the story.  He will undoubtedly by dismissed.  For Nocco, he’s a nuisance and an obstacle to his inevitable climb to the top.

Remember, that School Resource Officer’s primary duty is maintain the safety of the children in that middle school.  Yesterday, something went awry.  We don’t know what went wrong yet.  In time we will know.  However, if that SRO was faced with a situation similar to Parkland, it would be his duty to rush toward danger and stop the attack. The SRO in Pasco has received the requisite training from the Senior Training Analyst in the Pasco Sheriff’s Department. Because of his training, he knows his job will result in neutralizing the attacker or being killed trying to stop the attack. His job is to put his life on the line.  His job description requires a willingness to be a hero, to sacrifice everything for the welfare of those children.  In the Parkland tragedy, that didn’t happen.  The SRO didn’t protect innocent lives due to a lack of training.  Lonny Anger, a parent of a child involved in the Parkland shooting, believes that a trained and courageous SRO would be beneficial.  However, “if the officer isn’t trained properly or lacks the courage to do his job, it would be better to not have any officer in the school.”

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