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P.A.S.C.O. Coalition Urges DOJ to End Support of Harmful Predictive Policing Program

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. – In a letter today, the P.A.S.C.O. (People Against the Surveillance of Children and Overpolicing) Coalition asked the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to end its support of Pasco County’s discriminatory predictive policing programs targeting Black and Brown communities in the district. 

The coalition was formed in 2020 after the community learned from news reports that the Pasco County School District was actively sharing sensitive and confidential student records with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office as part of a predictive policing program. The program, one of three DOJ-funded predictive policing programs in Pasco County since 2011, subjected local students to heightened police surveillance and enforcement activities, including interrogation without parental notification or legal representation, likely increasing disparities in exclusionary discipline, school-based arrest and involuntary psychiatric detention. The policing tactics used were admitted by the sheriff’s office to be designed to force families to move or sue.

After pressure from the coalition, the department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) agreed to conduct an assessment on only one of the predictive policing programs, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office’s Focused Deterrence Program. Last year, at the request of the BJA, a third party conducted the review. Despite finding that Black and Brown residents surveilled in the program were overrepresented by rates as high as 200%, the report concluded there was no “identifiable disproportionate impact on people of color.” In a letter to the DOJ, the coalition writes that the third-party report failed to adequately assess the harms of the county’s predictive policing program.

“These predictive policing programs have been shown to increase illegal profiling of Black and Brown youth and communities,” said Carli Raben, a staff attorney for children’s rights at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is a founding member of the coalition. “DOJ funds should not be used to support this unlawful practice.”

The coalition letter describes how the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office has used predictive policing in recent years and urges the DOJ to assess all three of the county’s predictive policing programs. “The BJA’s assessment demands an immediate and decisive response from the Department of Justice (DOJ) pursuant to its Title VI obligations, especially in light of the [Biden] Administration’s recent focus on the harms of data-driven technologies in communities of color and other marginalized groups,” the letter states. 

To address the harmful impact of Pasco County’s predictive policing programs, the coalition urges the DOJ to issue additional stop-work orders to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and School District for DOJ-funded activities; conduct a Title VI investigation of all predictive policing programs to determine the impact on privacy and civil rights of impacted residents; purge all personally identifying data from Pasco County’s Focused Deterrence Program and related predictive policing activities; and prohibit the use of federal funds to support artificial intelligence or other data-driven technologies that violate civil and human rights.