33-Min HCSO Response Time to Near-School Shooting Doesn’t Stop Vote to Disband Brooksville Police
BROOKSVILLE – The Brooksville City Council voted 4-1 on Monday to begin talks with the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office on taking over law enforcement services for the City, essentially bringing an end to the Brooksville Police Department.
Councilwoman Natalie Kahler, a long-time advocate for making public safety the number one priority for the City’s 8,000 residents, was the lone-dissenter in Monday’s vote. Kahler said during Monday’s meeting, “I think we do know very clearly what the level of service is going to be and whether it will be better or not.” Kahler was referring to response times that widely differ between the Sheriff’s Office and Brooksville Police, as it pertains to calls within the city limits.
Kahler used a recent shooting incidents near two local schools to compare the response times for BPD and HCSO.
On February 28th, Sheriff’s Deputies were dispatched to the area of School Street, after receiving reports of shots fired in the area of BEST Academy and Head Start.
According to CAD notes provide by the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, an employee with the Head Start, a program that cares for children between the ages of 6-weeks to 5-years-old, reported hearing at least three shots at 11:44 a.m. The caller advised that they were on lockdown and hiding children in the bathroom.
The HCSO CAD notes show the call being received at 11:45 a.m. but they did not dispatch deputies until 12:01 p.m. – over 6-minutes from time of dispatch. It wasn’t until 12:18 p.m. that the first deputies began to arrive on scene. A total 33-minutes from the time a teacher reported hearing shots fired near the schools.
Head Start employee Shelby Deramus tells RNRF, “We were on the playground when we heard the shots and immediately brought the children inside and locked down the school.” Deramus says, “We had to keep the children locked in a dark bathroom for hours, while we waited for deputies to arrive and search the area.”
Because School Street is HCSO’s jurisdiction and there is no mutual aid agreement with Brooksville, BPD officers were not called to assist until 12:22 p.m., but once they were, Officers arrived on scene within 76-seconds of dispatch.
Not long after the first incident, school staff reported hearing gunshots again around 3:19 p.m. and once again placed the schools on lockdown. Although HCSO’s response time were much less, 7-minutes from dispatch, BPD arrived on scene in just 4-minutes.
It should be noted that School Street is situated just one block from Twigg Street, one of the most dangerous streets in Brooksville, where drug trafficking and shootings are common place.
Capt. Hankins says Sheriff Al Nienhuis refuses to sign a mutual aid agreement, allowing his officers to respond to calls within HCSO’s jurisdiction.
These scenarios were illustrated by Councilwoman Kahler and BPD Captain Rick Hankins during Monday’s Council meeting, but it had no consequence on the final decision to dissolve the Police Department when it came to a vote. Even after HCSO Col. Mike Maurer stated during a previous City Council meeting, that if HCSO took over the City, it would not improve the response times at all.
In response to the decisions, Capt. Hankins writes, “The police department and the public have been very outspoken to the City Council on expected service levels and the 30 dedicated Officers and civilian employees that are in threat to be laid off. The City losing its identity to contract with the Sheriff for less services is not a reasonable resolution to a financial shortfall.” Hankins continues, “I worry about the future of the City, the City Residents, and of my employees and their families. I will work hard to try to sway the City Council to not do this. If they persist, I will work hard to give them a budget that the City can afford, while still keeping the BPD. A smaller budget will equal less services, but in any case, much better and cheaper than contracting with the Sheriff.”
We also reached out to Chief George Turner who said, “As Chief of Police I do not support the disbandment of the BPD and or the contracting of services through the Hernando County Sheriff. BPD will always provide a higher level of service to our citizens. In the very near future, I will present to the City Council “counter proposals“ to the Sheriff s proposals. If the City Council decides that the present level of service by BPD is something the City can no longer afford, then to save the BPD, we will structure a budget and staffing/service level they can. That proposal will be presented to Council prior to the final vote on this matter. It is my hope that the Council considers the BPD options vs the layoff of 31 dedicated BPD employees.”
I asked HCSO Spokesperson Denise Moloney if she could provide a statement on the takeover, and she said, “Regarding the Brooksville City Council’s request to enter into negotiations with the Sheriff to provide law enforcement services in the City of Brooksville – we do understand that there was a vote on Monday evening, however, we have not officially been contacted by anyone from the City of Brooksville as of yet.”
I asked Councilwoman Kahler today where the proposal stood, and she said, “I don’t know, we submitted our $900K option to HSCO but we have yet to receive a response.”
Citizen Commenters were overwhelmingly disappointed by the decision and some called for the complete dissolution of the City, altogether, if they decide to disband the Police Department.
Jason Sager stated, “I’ve not heard one citizen that has ever said that they want to get rid of BPD. Our biggest fear is that this is the beginning of the end of Brooksville.” He went on to say, “I can’t believe you want to be to be a member of the Council that puts the first nail in the coffin of a city that’s been here since 1856.”
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ™2013 – 2018 RNRF Incorporated.