CLEARWATER — The City Council decided has decided to keep the Clearwater Police Department and not contract with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
A pro-police crowd packed the council chambers at City Hall Thursday night, and at least two dozen Clearwater residents pleaded with council members to keep the city's police force. Only one favored switching to the Sheriff's Office to save money.
Council members are facing a budget crisis this summer. Although they turned down Sheriff Jim Coats' offer, they're putting pressure on police Chief Tony Holloway and City Manager Bill Horne to cut the Police Department's $37.4 million budget. That might mean making do with fewer police supervisors and office workers, or merging Clearwater's police communications center with another agency's call center.
The police chief's own analysis concluded that Coats' plan for law enforcement in Clearwater would cost the city $28.7 million a year —$8.7 million less than the Police Department's budget.
Council members are warning the public that keeping the Police Department will likely mean steep cuts to services like libraries, parks and recreation.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4160.