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Dunedin puts charter to the question // Return to local control over police _ vote yes

Dunedin residents wanted a say in the fate of their police department, presenting their commission thousands of signatures on three separate petitions asking to keep their department. Hundreds wrote letters and begged at meetings for a referendum.

The commission refused and caved in to a threat from Sheriff Everett Rice to pull his contract offer if it went to the voters. Since a scientific poll indicated 74 percent wanted to keep their police, Rice obviously knew he'd lose in a referendum held then.

When Save the Police became a conduit for citizens to redress their government, city officials forced them to jump through hoops, sued them and stonewalled a vote until after the police were disbanded.

Through efforts of thousands and by rights granted under Florida Statutes, the people now have a referendum.

City officials are using scare tactics of financial crisis, exorbitant tax increases and decreased services if the amendment passes. Dunedin can afford its own police department.

City officials and the sheriff who manipulated your basic right to vote are the same politicians asking you to trust their facts.

The only savings Dunedin will realize with the sheriff are from county subsidy and reduction in officers. Although auditors confirmed the city's arithmetic, they attached a disclaimer about the source of those numbers. A big tax increase is not needed to re-establish a department, despite unsubstantiated claims by a pro-sheriff group. Officials based threats of higher taxes on inflated projections to justify their betrayal of the people's wishes.

Reinstating our police would remove politics from law enforcement, return local control over its quality and quantity, provide officers dedicated only to Dunedin, and halt the slide toward metro government, which empirical studies show bring taxes up and services down.

Reinstatement does not affect either the $1.1-million Dunedin residents already pay the sheriff in county taxes for the helicopter, crime scene forensics, SWAT team and computer information, or mutual aid agreements among all law enforcement agencies.

Tarpon Springs votes in March whether to protect its police department by placing it in its charter.

Your vote on the amendment should be based on the merits, not a public disinformation campaign waged by the city and sheriff and financed with taxpayer dollars.

Give Dunedin what the majority wanted. Vote yes Feb. 13 to restore Dunedin's police department.

_ Marilyn McBride is chairwoman of the Save the Police committee.

What's at stake

Dunedin voters will decide whether to amend the city's charter on Feb. 13. The amendment would force Dunedin to cancel its contract with the sheriff and re-establish its own police force. The city's police department could not be abolished again without voter approval or a unanimous vote of the City Commission.