Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Pete Beach votes to disband Police Department

ST. PETE BEACH — Voters approved a ballot measure on Tuesday night that would allow the City Commission to disband the town's police department.

Passed with 58 percent of the vote, the measure will end decades of home-policing by the city's own small force, freeing the City Commission to contract out law enforcement to the Pinellas County Sheriff.

St. Pete Beach residents have been debating whether to dissolve their Police Department as far back as 1978. But in this town of 10,000 residents, having its own police force has always been a point of pride.

In recent years, however, city officials have tried to revive enthusiasm for the idea of switching to the sheriff as tax revenues have fallen and pension costs have grown. Doing so would save the city an estimated $1.3 million, according to City Manager Mike Bonfield. Many beach communities, such as Madeira Beach and Redington Beach, already have taken this route.

The change had the backing of the City Commission, which voted earlier this year to support disbanding the police force, as did the union that represents the 25-member force.

Recent changes to the officers' pension plan, which made it less generous and would require them to work 30 years before retiring, propelled many of them to back the switch to the sheriff. Given the choice between staying in St. Pete Beach under the new pension plan or going to work for Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who has offered them jobs, a majority of them chose the latter.

Opponents of transitioning to the Sheriff's Office have said that doing so will deprive St. Pete Beach of one of its small-town charms: police officers who know residents by name, even the law abiding ones. Some residents said they would prefer to pay higher taxes to support keeping the Police Department rather than see it lost to a cost-saving measure.

But on Election Day, the plans' supporters prevailed.

It is unclear how quickly the City Commission will act to disband the department, or what will become of the police headquarters on 76th Avenue, which opened in 1995 and cost the city $2.1 million.

In Belleair Bluffs, voters rejected an amendment to the city's charter that would have given the mayor and city commissioners another year in office.

According to unofficial results from Tuesday's election, the measure failed by a margin of 125 votes. About 55 percent of voters opposed it.

St. Pete Beach votes to disband Police Department 11/06/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 1:09am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Another suspicious death in Tampa's Seminole Heights

    Crime

    TAMPA — Police are investigating a suspicious death in southeast Seminole Heights, near the location of two shooting deaths last week.

  2. Duke tops preseason coaches' basketball poll; Gators No. 7

    College

    Duke has been tabbed the preseason No. 1 for the second straight season in the coaches' basketball poll, released Thursday.

    Florida point guard Chris Chiozza launches the shot of last season’s NCAA Tournament, a winning 3
against Wisconsin that put the Gators into the Elite Eight. Chiozza returns to lead a UF team that’s getting its share of preseason attention, including a No. 7 ranking in the coaches’ poll.
  3. Richard Spencer speaks, and Gainesville emerges weary but at peace

    News

    GAINESVILLE — Fists raised, a sea of defiant student protesters at the University of Florida relentlessly shouted down the white nationalist on stage. Richard Spencer paced, irritated, clinging to his chance to talk.

    Protesters scream at supporters of Richard Spencer after his speech at the Phillips Center at the University of Florida.  [Thursday October 19, 2017] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  4. Pentagon investigating troubling questions after deadly Niger ambush

    Military

    WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary James N. Mattis, troubled by a lack of information two weeks after an ambush on a special operations patrol in Niger left four U.S. soldiers dead, is demanding a timeline of what is known about the attack, as a team of investigators sent to West Africa begins its work.

  5. In the military, trusted officers became alleged assailants in sex crimes

    Military

    The Army is grappling with a resurgence of cases in which troops responsible for preventing sexual assault have been accused of rape and related crimes, undercutting the Pentagon's claims that it is making progress against sexual violence in the ranks.