Saturday, March 22, 2008

Jail Review Commission Swamped With Data On Hillsborough Operations

By MIKE WELLS of The Tampa Tribune

Published: March 21, 2008

Updated: 07:03 pm

At the today's meeting of the county's independent commission on jails, division leaders from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office deluged members with information about the agency's operations.

Col. David Parrish, the jail division's chief administrator, said the staff gave the commission only what it asked for. He sees the strong interest as a good thing.

"Some of them have spent time in booking late at night to see what it's really like," he said.

After the meeting, which was held at Jefferson High School's auditorium, Commissioner Ray Velboom, a retired agent of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said it was a lot to absorb but helpful.

"My head's still swimming," he said. "We're still trying to lay the background. It's a huge operation and we're trying to understand it."

The sheriff's staff touted the agency's tougher hiring standards, a new Web-based complaint and misconduct tracking system launched in February and how the jail changed its approach to solving inmate grievances in 2006.

None of those changes, however, would have prevented a detention deputy from dumping a paralyzed Brian Sterner from a wheelchair on Jan. 29, the incident that prompted Sheriff David Gee to create the commission in February.

Sterner, who is paralyzed from the chest down, had been arrested on a traffic-related charge.
The former deputy who was later charged with felony adult abuse, Charlette Marshall-Jones
served more than 22 years in uniform.

Gee has said previously that Marshall-Jones's action wasn't about training but human decency.
Maj. Jim Previtera, who oversees the training division, told the commission he was shocked by the surveillance video of Sterner being dumped to the floor.

"Mandatory remedial training is applicable to problem employees, but for egregious uses of force, retraining is not a replacement for discipline," he said.

When he was hired by Gee in 2005, the sheriff told him "training is the future of this agency," Previtera said.

"We've made training progress, but as you can see, we have a long way to go," Previtera said.
Tony Piskorski of Land O'Lakes told the commission the jail shouldn't be judged on one bad incident.

He had a positive experience with the jail staff when his son was arrested last year on drug charges.

"I felt very safe that [my son] would be alright because of the treatment he was receiving," Piskorski said. "Our fears were put to rest because of Col. Parrish. The county couldn't ask for a better person to run that jail."

Reporter Mike Wells can be reached at (813) 259-7839 or

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