Letter by chief triggers reminder
By LEON M. TUCKER
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 3, 2001
CLEARWATER -- Two days after the St. Petersburg Times published a letter written by Clearwater police Chief Sid Klein, the city's intermim city manager sent an e-mail reminding department heads to run such correspondence by him first.
Klein submitted a letter to the Times disputing a March 22 editorial that suggested Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Thomas Penick is responsible for keeping the peace between the Church of Scientology and anti-Scientology protesters.
The editorial stated Penick "has the unenviable task of refereeing sidewalk skirmishes."
"That responsibility falls to the Clearwater Police Department," Klein's March 30 letter says. "Without off-duty police officers standing by to act as school yard monitors for these two groups, we would have to continually send on-duty police officers to break up confrontations. . . . (and) to quell these venomous, juvenile exchanges."
Under the arrangement, the church pays $25 an hour per officer to have two uniformed officers work 8 1/2-hour security shifts 365 days a year. The department gets $2.50 per hour for administrative costs.
Klein, who has been police chief for 20 years, declined to comment for this story.
Interim City Manager Bill Horne, who was appointed to the job in July, said he and other officials took issue with the tone and content of the letter, calling it "too emotional, too harsh" and not completely reflective of the city's position on the matter.
"The feeling is it may have had an emotional tone that we thought might not have been appropriate," he said. "We want to make sure we are communicating appropriately."
"You might have the right facts," Horne added. "But if you communicate them in a way that alienates your listeners, then what have you accomplished?"
Horne also said that although the Police Department has its own public relations staff, matters that address the city as a whole require input from a higher level.
"It's not a matter of us trying to tell the chief how to run his department," Horne said. "When we are responding to editorials, we want to make sure that response is well written in tone and content so that we are communicating effectively."
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