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Anti-hate group gives top award to Clearwater police major

Clearwater Maj. David Dalton received the Anti-Defamation League’s law enforcement award for “his commitment to ensuring that law enforcement personnel adhere to the highest standards of policing while treating all citizens fairly and with respect."

A prominent anti-hate group gave a Clearwater Police Department major its top law enforcement award.

The Anti-Defamation League, a nonprofit organization dedicated to exposing extremism and providing anti-bias training, awarded Maj. David Dalton for “his commitment to ensuring that law enforcement personnel adhere to the highest standards of policing while treating all citizens fairly and with respect,” according to a news release. The award comes amid a national rise in hate crimes.

He received the award Tuesday night at a reception in Palm Beach.

“It was great to be recognized ... Police officers don’t really do it for those reasons, but it’s still nice when it happens,” he said in an interview. ”I just believe in the mission. I believe it’s the right thing for law enforcement to do."

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Dalton, 48, currently oversees the department’s support services division, including personnel and training functions. He previously led the criminal investigations division. He’s been a police officer for more than 25 years and joined Clearwater police in 1996, where he rose from officer to detective in units including homicide and crimes against children, then on to the higher ranks.

The recognition stemmed from Dalton’s efforts to talk to police recruits about lessons they can learn about law enforcement from the Holocaust and other historic flash points of police abuse, and working with the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg to coordinate more widespread training for Tampa Bay area law enforcement.

“Clearly, Major Dalton’s efforts have increased the awareness of hate crimes within the Tampa Bay region,” according to a nominating letter from the police department, “and he has provided law enforcement executives, command staff members, and prosecuting attorneys the tools necessary to more effectively investigate and prosecute these offenses, with the aim of ensuring the safety and quality of life for our communities.”

Clearwater has been fortunate not to see as many, or as violent, hate crimes as other parts of the country, Dalton said. But two incidents in the last few years come to mind. In 2016, police investigated swastikas and hate speech drawn in chalk on the driveway of a Hispanic church.

And last year, amid racial tensions stoked by the shooting of Markeis McGlockton, an unarmed black man, by Michael Drejka, a white self-designated parking lot monitor, investigators arrested a 21-year-old who they say confessed to spray-painting swastikas in the historically black North Greenwood neighborhood. On the same day, racist signs from the white supremacist group Patriot Front appeared around town.

“There’s a fear in the community that’s created by all crime, but specifically by hate crimes,” Dalton said. Police officers "have to stand up for all people. We took an oath to do that.”

Dalton lives in Tampa with his wife and 4-year-old son.