At a mere 0.7 square miles in size, it shouldn't be too difficult for tiny Kenneth City's 12 police officers to maintain law and order — when they can find the time to show up for work. But a routine among some officers, including the chief, to use on-duty time to linger over breakfast and surf the Internet suggests its time for a more professional law enforcement agency to take over Kenneth City's patrol duties, which cost city taxpayers $1.2 million in eggs over easy annually.
After an investigation by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, conducted at the request of Mayor Teresa Zemaitis, detectives discovered a pattern of questionable conduct among the officers and Chief Douglas Pasley. It included leisurely breakfast breaks at a restaurant outside the city limits, as well as another officer who spent his time on the thin blue line fighting crime by using his department computer to search Internet dating, shopping, nutrition and bodybuilding sites. Perhaps a visit to job.com might be in order.
Sheriff's investigators also learned that on-duty officers often turned off their computer/Global Positioning Systems while on dining breaks, making it more difficult to locate an officer to respond to a call and jeopardizing public safety. Pasley, who is paid $61,800 for his breakfast club activities, has used his city-issued Ford Crown Victoria police vehicle for travel beyond the Tampa Bay region in violation of his city contract.
These latest revelations of Kenneth City police officers using their positions for what amounts to on-the-job retirement follow a long, tawdry history of department turmoil, infighting and accusations of political patronage. Enough is enough. The nearly 5,000 residents of Kenneth City deserve better. They deserve a long overdue professional commitment to public safety.
Since the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office already serves as the official dispatcher of Kenneth City police officers, when it can locate them, it would only make sense for Sheriff Jim Coats to formally assume Kenneth City patrol duties. The move would save money for the cash-strapped hamlet, while also giving residents a greater sense of security knowing the streets are being protected by a more committed law enforcement agency. Nearly half of Pinellas' 24 municipalities already contract with the sheriff for law enforcement, and this seems like a natural for Kenneth City.
Mayor Zemaitis' tactics were unorthodox, but she did the right thing in taking on a politically powerful and insubordinate police chief. At least someone in Kenneth City is doing her job.