ZEPHYRHILLS — Capt. David Shears, a 16-year veteran of the Zephyrhills Police Department, was sworn in as the city's new police chief Monday night.
The Zephyrhills City Council unanimously approved City Manager Steve Spina's recommendation that Shears, who has served as interim chief since August, take on the position permanently.
Shears took over when former chief Russell Barnes left after accusations he created a "flex time" policy that allowed employees to receive time off instead of overtime pay for extra hours worked. The policy violated city ordinances and, possibly, the Fair Labor Standards Act.
In his recommendation to the council, Spina praised Shears' performance as interim chief. He wrote that Shears updated job descriptions and revised overtime policies.
"He enacted a number of changes during the time he has been acting chief," Spina said. "In addition, I think he's exhibited a willingness to work with his co-workers at the department. I heartily recommend him."
The council gently grilled Shears before swearing him in.
Council member Kenneth Compton asked whether Shears would consider pursuing a bachelor's degree, which the new chief does not have. Shears said he had not ruled out the possibility.
Council member Jodi Wilkeson asked whether Shears had resolved the issues of department members teaching at the local community college during work time, one of the problems the city had with Barnes.
"They'll be able to teach, but we're going to be able to monitor when they teach," Shears said. "As for teaching while on duty, that's not going to happen."
The larger-than-usual audience gave Shears three rounds of applause, including a standing ovation when the council approved Spina's recommendation.
Almost a dozen uniformed members of the force lined the back wall of the commission chambers and left shortly after Shears was sworn in.
Shears was selected out of three internal candidates who applied for the position. Interviews were held earlier in the month. The starting salary for the position is $60,674.
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 435-7312.