Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

Dunedin has a changing of guardians // POLICE NO MORE

The clock on the wall read 12:01 a.m. Oct. 1 had arrived. But no bugles blared, no banners were unfurled to signify the event.

Early Sunday, Dunedin police officers were officially replaced by the deputies of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. In fact, deputies began patrolling the city's streets at 11 p.m. Saturday, the normal shift change.

And those Dunedin officers who had accepted jobs with the Sheriff's Office were handing in their city-issued guns, bulletproof vests, handcuffs and green uniforms.

"I need one badge," Dunedin Capt. Bruce Mills told soon-to-be Deputy Scott Marchetta.

"That's what hurts," Marchetta said, though he smiled as he took off the badge and handed it over. He and other officers did get to keep one badge _ they all had two.

Officer Thomas Murray, a 10-year Dunedin officer, had come to the building clad in his uniform although he didn't work Saturday.

"For myself and my family it's been a tough 18 months," Murray said, standing by the police building as he smoked a cigarette. "But we're looking forward to moving on."

Earlier that evening, Murray, Marchetta and several other officers asked the citizens' group Save the Police Committee to stop its efforts to reinstate the Police Department. The committee forced the city to hold a February referendum on the issue. If voters override the City Commission's decision, the Police Department _ in some form _ will return.

But some of the former officers _ now deputies _ are afraid that a voter-enacted police department might be smaller, and might not include them.

"In beginning our new careers with new horizons, we want this grand feeling of security and direction to continue," Marchetta told the public who had gathered to hear a round of informal speeches made by city and Sheriff's Office officials.

"Consequences of reinstating a police department will be unemployment for each and every Dunedin officer that has respectfully become a deputy," Marchetta said.

On Sunday, Bill Douglas, Save the Police Committee spokesman, responded to those comments.

"This is a much larger issue than keeping this particular police department," he said. It's also about the residents of the city having a say in the matter, he said.

Rice confirmed later that evening that the former Dunedin officers would lose their deputy positions if the city revoked its contract with his office.

Douglas said he believed that Rice is using that issue to get favorable votes in February.

Dunedin City Manager John Lawrence said he was not certain whether the city could offer the officers back their jobs because it's not known how the department would be reconstituted.

Late Saturday, across the street from the former police building, now the sheriff's North District Station, residents watched sheriff's officials mingle inside.

As the nearly 100-year-old tradition of the Dunedin Police Department came to a quiet end, the man who began the campaign to switch to Sheriff's Office protection, Dunedin City Commissioner Tom Osborne, was not present.

Sheriff's Capt. John D. Bolle, North District Station commander, sat at his new desk in what was once the chief's office, and contemplated the new assignment and the residents he wants to win over.

"It's a big day for us," Bolle said, "Because we want the opportunity to show that we are and always have been the local police officers that they've lost."

_ Photographer Al Hogue contributed to this report.