Scientology magazine targets police "racism grievances'


St. Petersburg Times, published February 26, 1997

CLEARWATER - The Church of Scientology's magazine is once again taking aim at the Clearwater Police Department.

The magazine Freedom has published many articles critical of the department and its employees, once describing an undercover detective as a "bad cop'' who was "on a private mission of anti-religious hate.''

Now magazine representatives are researching the personnel and internal affairs records of police Chief Sid Klein and other department supervisors, calling black police officers and contacting a lawyer who represents several officers.

Police spokesman Wayne Shelor said a man who identified himself as Freedom reporter Tom Whittle recently called and asked him about "racism grievances."

"I told him I didn't know what he was talking about," Shelor said. "His premise is preposterous. There is no institutional racism in the city of Clearwater, much less the Police Department."

He said the department has not been as successful as it would like in recruiting black employees, but the effort continues. Of the department's 247 sworn officers, 18 are black. These include five detectives and two detective sergeants.

Mike Laursen, the city's human resources director, said there are no pending Police Department grievances related to race.

In a written response to questions, church spokesman Brian Anderson said the magazine is investigating "complaints about minority problems and discrimination" pertaining to the Police Department. He did not provide specifics.

He added that "it has been a positive surprise to see how many people have been eager to provide information."

Clearwater lawyer Andra Dreyfus, who represents several officers, said at least three representatives of the church or magazine have contacted her recently. She said she has refused to talk to them and told them not to call again.

"I got many, many phone calls, sometimes two or three a day," Dreyfus said. "They do not identify themselves unless pressed. They have been attempting to use me as a vehicle to get the police and want to pursue negatives, or perceived negatives. They are not looking for objective information."

She said some of her clients have been contacted by magazine representatives. They, too, have declined to talk to them.

"It is my firm belief that anything my clients want to address, they can do it without the Scientologists," Dreyfus said. "My clients and the city have one thing in common - they want what's best. The Scientologists are not part of the equation. Their motives are less than pure."

Anderson said Dreyfus has spoken to a magazine representative once and that "any allegation to the contrary is untruthful."

When asked to provide information about the number of black Sea Org members, Anderson replied, "The church views man as an immortal, spiritual being regardless of race or color. We have no racial distinctions or requirements for the hiring or advancement of church staff. Therefore, we never had a reason to count or keep quotas of employees' race."

According to police and city officials, Freedom magazine representatives have asked to review the files of Deputy Chief Paul Maser, Detective Sgt. Wayne Andrews, Sgt. Tom Miller and retired Lt. Ray Emmons in addition to Chief Klein's. None of the five is black.

Emmons specialized in Scientology affairs. Maser supervised intelligence detectives who investigated complaints about Scientologists. Both have been named in Freedom articles critical of the Police Department.

Andrews is investigating the suspicious death of Lisa McPherson, a Scientologist who died in 1995 while in the care of church members.

The Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office concluded McPherson died of blood clotting caused by "bed rest and severe dehydration." According to Medical Examiner Joan Wood, she had no fluids for five to 10 days before she died, was unconscious for two days before her death and probably was bitten by cockroaches.

Last week, a lawyer representing McPherson's estate filed a lawsuit seeking punitive and compensatory damages against the church. Church officials contended Clearwater police persuaded McPherson's relatives to file the lawsuit and have said the investigation into her death is part of an effort to discredit Scientology.

Anderson did not respond to a question about whether or not the magazine's activities were related to the McPherson investigation.

)Copyright 1997 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.

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