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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Deputies protest in heat over contract
The sheriff has made an offer but the deputies say it doesn't include key elements.
By THOMAS LAKE
Published June 6, 2007
[Times photo: Julia Kumari Drapkin]
Some of Sheriff Bob White's deputies, angry about his hard-line stance in union negotiations, braved heat and rush hour traffic along with friends and family to protest in front of the West Pasco Courthouse Tuesday afternoon.
NEW PORT RICHEY - At 4:36 p.m. Tuesday, on Little Road near the West Pasco Government Center, a young man in a Chevy Impala took his eyes off the road.
His distraction lasted only a second or two. It did not cause a collision. And it could not have been blamed on the Jimi Hendrix song pumping from his stereo. The man swiveled his neck to the left so he could stare at the people holding the signs.
There were about 30 of them, and their signs had two messages:
1. CRIMINALS HAVE RIGHTS WHY DON'T DEPUTIES?
2. SUPPORT YOUR DEPUTIES THE SHERIFF WON'T
The man drove off, seemingly perplexed by the rhetoric. No wonder. He had just witnessed an event with little or no precedent in Pasco County history: deputies, in public, protesting against the sheriff.
Here's some backstory. A little over a year ago, against Sheriff Bob White's wishes, some of his deputies voted to form a union. Soon after that, the two sides began negotiating for a contract. They still do not have one.
White made what he said was his final offer earlier this year, but the deputies overwhelmingly rejected it because it omitted at least three things they wanted: gap medical coverage for retirees, a more liberal discipline appeals process, and the right to use agency mailboxes for union communication.
Now the sides are at impasse and the deputies are growing restless. And so, on Tuesday, in front of the county courthouse, they took up their signs and appealed to passing motorists.
It was a complex message to take in, much less respond to, at 45 mph, and as cars speak little besides honks and turn signals, it was hard to judge the reaction. You did have some thumbs-up gestures, and a variety of horn blasts the chirp, the long blare, the staccato, many from fellow public servants, but you also had a boy in a black Ford Explorer making a funny face and a woman in a maroon Corvette staring imperviously ahead.
"Hot," said Paul Noeske, a union organizer for the Fraternal Order of Police, as the sun glared down about an hour into the protest. "My back hurts."
A white-bearded man pumped his fist from a antique convertible. A woman sat at the stop light, smoke pouring from her nostrils. Other drivers' expressions ranged from indifferent to melancholy.
About 5:20 p.m., a man in dark glasses pulled up to the light. Bo Christman read the sign about criminals having more rights than deputies. And he disagreed with it.
"That doesn't make any sense to me," Christman said. "I'm a convicted felon for driving on a suspended license. I have no rights whatsoever."
Thomas Lake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.