Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater officials like ideas from sheriff, but will likely keep city police force

CLEARWATER — This Thursday night, the City Council is poised to reject the Pinellas County sheriff's proposal to take over law enforcement in the city. But council members are ready to embrace some of the sheriff's cost-cutting ideas, and they'll be directing their police chief to pursue them.

With the likely rejection of the sheriff's plan, Clearwater still faces a whopping $7.6 million budget deficit. That means the city will likely close some libraries, slash hours for recreation centers, and weigh an assortment of other budget cuts and tax hikes this summer.

As for who will patrol Clearwater's streets, that decision comes down to dueling budget estimates.

Sheriff Jim Coats figures he would save the city $10.8 million a year if Clearwater disbands its Police Department and contracts with the Sheriff's Office instead.

But Police Chief Tony Holloway is telling a dramatically different story: He says switching to the Sheriff's Office would save Clearwater only $2.5 million in the first year.

That's one reason why City Council members are unlikely to make the switch at their public meeting Thursday. They're also worried about the prospect of not having total control over future law enforcement costs.

"I have always leaned toward keeping CPD (the Clearwater Police Department)," said Mayor Frank Hibbard. "I think that is an important factor in our city."

On Monday at a council work session, Clearwater officials questioned Coats about how things would really work if the Sheriff's Office patrolled Clearwater. They asked how closely sheriff's deputies in the city would be supervised; how much Clearwater police officers would be paid if they became sheriff's deputies; and how a consolidated police dispatch center would operate.

Then Coats made a surprising announcement: He offered to name Clearwater's recently hired chief, Holloway, as a sheriff's captain overseeing Clearwater.

Dueling numbers

Coats says it would cost the Sheriff's Office about $26.6 million a year to keep the same number of patrol officers and detectives in Clearwater. That's $10.8 million less than the Clearwater Police Department's $37.4 million budget.

Holloway went through the sheriff's plan point-by-point for the City Council on Monday. For various reasons, he concluded the plan would actually cost nearly $28.7 million. That's still a sizable $8.7 million a year less than Clearwater's police budget.

But Holloway also predicted there would be a one-time cost of $6.1 million to shut down the Police Department and pay out money for layoffs, retirements, unused vacation time, debt on police cars, and leases on police computers. He figures the sheriff's plan would eliminate 55 employees. This up-front cost would knock the savings down to about $2.54 million in Year 1, Holloway said.

City Council members questioned the sheriff about his plan to reduce the number of police supervisors in Clearwater from nearly 50 to about 28.

"We could accomplish the same thing by simply reducing the command staff we have to a level that would be commensurate with what you are proposing," Councilman Paul Gibson told the sheriff. "It looks to me like this is a much lower service level."

Coats said some of those supervisory positions, such as a K-9 supervisor, are duplicated at the Sheriff's Office.

"I would pledge to you — and I think our history shows — that the level of service that we would provide to the city of Clearwater … is equal to or greater than you currently have," the sheriff said.

While disbanding the Police Department is unlikely, Clearwater officials are intrigued by Coats' idea of merging the sheriff's communications center with Clearwater's police dispatch center, which employs 44 people. Clearwater also will look into the possibility of merging its dispatch center with Largo's.

"The comm center issue bears more exploration," said City Manager Bill Horne.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at or (727) 445-4160.

If You go

Clearwater City Council meeting

When: 6 p.m. Thursday

Where: Council Chambers, City Hall, 112 S Osceola Ave.

Clearwater officials like ideas from sheriff, but will likely keep city police force 05/18/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 18, 2010 7:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Jason Aldean fires up a country-dude party at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre


    Country music has a dude problem.

    I’m not talking about the proliferation of mindless bro country over the past half-decade, nor am I referring to the fact that most of Nashville’s best music these days comes not from said bros, from female singers and songwriters.

    Jason Aldean performed at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on Aug. 18, 2018.
  2. President Trump offers prayers for Kissimmee police


    President Donald Trump reacted to the police shooting in Kissimmee:

  3. Kissimmee police officer dies, one gravely wounded; Jacksonville officers shot


    KISSIMMEE — A Kissimmee police officer died and a second was gravely wounded Friday night, police Chief Jeff O'Dell said.

    Two police officers have been shot and killed in Kissimmee, authorities say. The shooting happened in the area of Palmway and Cypress around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. Photo courtesy of
  4. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  5. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming


    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]