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Their plea is "Save the police'

The hand-painted white sign in the parking lot of the Pawn Shop downtown seems a humble form of political activism.

But inside, the sentiments are strong: The owner and customers state adamantly they do not want the Brooksville Police Department absorbed by the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

"They've got enough going on out in the county," owner Joe Breseman said of the Sheriff's Office.

"They don't even take care of what they got," said David Vance, Breseman's friend.

Breseman wrote a petition Thursday and put it in his store. As of Friday afternoon, it had 19 signatures. He plans to present them to the City Council when council members decide whether to retain the department.

The controversy began in recent weeks as both Brooksville Police Chief Ed Tincher and Sheriff Tom Mylander appeared before a task force that is considering ways to solve the city's budget crisis.

Tincher defended his department and its $1.14-million annual budget, saying it offered superior services. Mylander told the task force his office could do the same job for $370,000 less.

Tincher's position may have become more precarious when the Florida Department of Law Enforcement released the results of an investigation into his handling of confiscated guns. It cleared him of criminal charges but called his handling of firearms "questionable."

Mylander's proposal would put the same number of deputies on the streets of Brooksville as there are now police officers: three during the day and evening shifts, two during the midnight shift. But Tincher said residents could benefit from his department's superior knowledge of the town and cited its reputation for quick responses.

Breseman and others agree. The sign, adorned with one green balloon, says: "Save our City P.D." It encourages drivers to honk if they support these sentiments or to telephone City Hall. So far, 10 names, one of which is Breseman's, have been recorded on a log.

Such calls may be important. It will be about a month before the task force presents its recommendations to the council.

Council members have said that residents' sentiments about the Police Department will largely determine whether it stays or goes.

But Mayor Joe Bernardini said Friday that Breseman's feelings are hardly unanimous.

"I've had 10 people talk to me, and so far it's five for and five against," Bernardini said.

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