Keeping the peace in Clearwater
Re: Police work for Scientology,
editorial, March 22.
It's not Judge Thomas Penick, as you
wrote, "who has the unenviable task of refereeing sidewalk skirmishes between the Church of Scientology and
anti-Scientology protesters" in downtown Clearwater. That responsibility
falls to the Clearwater Police Department. It's the police officers who must
monitor and mitigate the constant confrontations between two groups --
fueled by hatred and distrust -- that seem incapable of tolerance and
This situation involves both public safety and fiscal responsibility.
off-duty police officers standing by to act as schoolyard monitors
for these two groups, we would have to continually send on-duty police
officers to break up confrontations, to interview witnesses, to review
from scores of cameras (both visible and hidden), to write reports
and to take whatever actions are necessary -- every day -- to quell
these venomous, juvenile exchanges.
I don't think the expense of our baby-sitting activities should impact the
quality of life or the level of service to which Clearwater's residents are
both entitled and accustomed. In this time of municipal fiscal blight, I
think it's not only responsible, it's downright wise, to let the
recalcitrant combatants themselves pick up the cost of the referees. That's
my solution to cutting this Gordian Knot.
Despite your disingenuous suggestion
that the Clearwater Police Department "treat Scientology
differently" from other churches or synagogues, I will not turn a
blind eye to the fact the members of this organization are residents
of Clearwater, and are guaranteed -- not just by the law, but by me
-- the same treatment and protections afforded every other resident
and visitor to this city.
It may be easy to make a call on this issue from afar, whether you're a
judge who has actually spoken with most of those involved, or an editorial
writer who has yet to gather information firsthand. But for those of us with
the responsibility to physically step between these combatants on a daily
basis, ours is an exercise based in practice, not theory and
I appreciate your opinion -- though I don't endorse it -- for I took an oath
years ago to uphold your right to express such speculative musings.
But you should know that the men and women of one of the finest law
enforcement agencies in the world are not likely to have their honor
sullied or their professionalism questioned because of a part-time
job. To imply as much is pandering and insulting.
While continuing to act as peacemaker -- and enforcing Judge Penick's
complex court order -- I will carry on my work with both sides, searching
for a viable solution acceptable to all. I fully intend to extricate the
Clearwater Police Department from this untenable situation. But absent any
Solomonic solution offered by the Times, I will continue to address this
convoluted situation in a manner that has proved to be both effective and
I'm confident our peacekeeping actions -- as distasteful as they may be to
some people -- are clearly in the best interests of the residents of
Clearwater. And I'm just as confident that our actions speak louder than
your words, which have the hollow, distant ring of an ivory tower bell.
-- Sid Klein, chief of police, Clearwater