Sheriff Sweetens Clearwater Proposal as CPD Explores New Initiatives
By Carl Wagenfohr
CLEARWATER - The task of those defending the continued existence of the Clearwater Police Department (CPD), threatened by a money-saving proposal from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office (PCSO), became more difficult last week.
In a letter to Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne, Sheriff Jim Coats explained that his original proposal, dated April 18, was based on some "conservative expense estimates" that have since been determined to be too high.
Those expenses, including pension and health care costs, are used to develop all of PCSO's municipal law enforcement contracts, not just Clearwater's. The fiscal year 2011 contract prices were just set on April 26th according to Coats.
Coats explained that his original proposal was based on a per-deputy annual cost of $88,963.83, while the assumed cost of a detective was $96,657.05. "The cost in the revised proposal for both Patrol deputies and Detectives is $80,191.67," Coats wrote. The costs of sergeants and lieutenants were also reduced, as was the per-mile operating expense of patrol vehicles.
The bottom line is attention-getting. "Our revised proposal to provide the City with full Law Enforcement services for FY11 is $26,605,780," Coats wrote. That represents a savings of $10,810,209 over CPD's FY10 budget of $37,415,990, and a $2.6-million improvement over the PCSO's original proposal.
While the city evaluates the Sheriff's proposal, including answers to questions that were asked of PCSO that the city had not made public in time for this story, newly installed Clearwater Police Chief Tony Holloway has been undeterred in formulating and publicizing several new initiatives he wants to bring to Clearwater.
Holloway spent more than one hour describing his plans at the meeting of the Clearwater Neighborhoods Coalition on Monday night.
Holloway described CPD's core mission as making Clearwater a safe place to live, play and do business. "It's already safe, we just want to make it safer," he said. Holloway intends to focus on burglaries, robberies, prostitution and drugs, explaining "it's all tied to drugs."
Holloway wants to continue the community policing established by his predecessor, Sid Klein, but he calls it Neighborhood Policing. He wants CPD's patrol officers to become more engaged with their assigned neighborhoods, encouraging them to "Park, Walk and Talk", to get out of their cruisers and talk to citizens and better understand neighborhood problems. He intends to rotate his officers' assignments less frequently so that they can gain a better understanding of their neighborhoods.
Holloway is also keen on bringing new technology to CPD. He wants to equip two of CPD's cruisers with License Plate Reader (LPR) equipment that will recognize the plate numbers of passing vehicles and automatically initiate a database search for violations and outstanding warrants.
Holloway also wants to enable citizens to anonymously report crimes or suspicious activity via text messaging or email using TIP411.com, a web-based community policing alert service.
Holloway thinks that the use of technology can improve safety on the city's streets; "I love the idea of red light cameras," Holloway said, but he cautioned that they should not be used as revenue generators.
Holloway fielded several questions about the PCSO proposal for Clearwater's law enforcement, but he declined to provide any detailed answers until his scheduled presentation to the City Council on May 20. He did say, however, "Once you cross that bridge, blow it up because you can't come back."
Holloway is scheduled to present his new initiatives at tonight's City Council meeting.
Return to Current Edition