CLEARWATER — Last time Clearwater chose a new police chief, City Manager Bill Horne launched a national search, sifted through more than 100 applications and conducted about a dozen interviews in a span of roughly five months.
This time around, Horne found the new chief among the Police Department's command staff within a week.
Horne's announcement Tuesday that patrol operations Maj. Dan Slaughter would lead the department beginning next month was widely praised by city and police officials.
"We had other good internal candidates to pick from," he said during a news conference. "But I felt Dan Slaughter was the best qualified and the best fit to lead the Clearwater Police Department moving forward."
Horne said Slaughter, 44, met all of the criteria he sought in the new chief: a professional with education and experience, someone who had the respect of officers, city leaders, and the community.
Slaughter called Horne's decision to appoint him as the city's 13th police chief humbling. He will lead Pinellas County's third-largest law enforcement agency, with 235 officers, 137 civilian employees and a $36 million annual budget.
"To me, being part of the Clearwater Police Department is who I am," he said. "It's not simply just what I do."
Slaughter will be sworn in at a City Council meeting Aug. 7 and will earn $123,000.
Through Aug. 12, current Clearwater Chief Tony Holloway will help Horne and Slaughter during the agency's transition. After that, Holloway, who has led Clearwater since 2010, will leave to become chief of the St. Petersburg Police Department.
Slaughter was hired in October 1992. He has held various positions, including special operations lieutenant, community officer and field training officer. He has investigated sex crimes, police-related shootings and homicides. From 2004 to 2008, he worked in the department's internal affairs section.
In 2012, Holloway promoted him to patrol operations major, where Slaughter oversees about 170 officers and 36 civilian employees.
"When I promoted him to patrol division commander, I saw something in him," Holloway said. "He's willing to get from behind his desk and lead. . . . I think he's going to have his own goals and objectives that he wants to look at and that's good. Now you get a fresh set of eyes to look at everything."
It's too soon to tell what projects he will prioritize, Slaughter said, adding the agency will continue its community policing efforts.
"This agency has never been closer to the citizens than we are right now," he said, "and it will continue to be a mission of this agency to build on that relationship."
Officials noted Slaughter's involvement with the city's homeless initiative among his accomplishments. In 2012, the department's bike team, along with a social worker, began connecting transients with programs to help them off the streets. From October 2012 through April, about 500 were taken to local shelters.
"We didn't try to arrest our way out of a situation," Slaughter said. "We've gone out of our way to create a mechanism to get people to services."
Crime in Clearwater, population 108,000, has slumped steadily in recent years, though the department is adding more officers to Clearwater Beach, where calls for service and reported crimes have shot up since 2009.
In Clearwater, the city manager is solely responsible for choosing the police chief. In 2010, Horne chose Holloway, who was police chief in Somerville, Mass., at the time. Within the past week, he chose among Slaughter, Deputy Chief Sandra Wilson and Maj. Donald Hall.
Wilson said she received a call from Horne on Monday to inform her she was not chosen, adding Slaughter has her "total support."
"Every promotion that comes is not for everybody. Only one person can get promoted," she said, "and I think where Clearwater is, he's the best fit."
Other officials agreed, including Mayor George Cretekos, who was pleased that the new chief came from within the department.
Lt. Juan Torres worked with Slaughter when both were community policing officers and homicide detectives. He recalled a time several years ago when Slaughter, during his testimony in a trial, was asked if he knew the Fourth Amendment.
Slaughter recited it verbatim, Torres said.
"He's one of the sharpest guys I've ever worked with," he said. "He always stood out."
City Council member Jay Polglaze has known Slaughter since 2009, when Polglaze and a band of volunteers were organizing monthly street parties downtown.
"I remember when it was 'Lieutenant Dan' out there moving tables and chairs with us, and directing traffic," he said. "He's a hands-on guy. He believes in the policies and the direction we're going right now."
Times staff researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] or (727)445-4157. Follow @lauracmorel.