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City of Clearwater, Florida:

The Community and its History of Community Policing

The Clearwater Community and its Police Department

Community Policing History

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Community Policing History

For nearly 20 years, the City of Clearwater has embraced a philosophy of community policing as an enhancement to traditional methods of law enforcement. Community policing in Clearwater has evolved into a comprehensive program made up of problem-solvers from various city departments, all working together with Clearwater’s businesses and residents to address the challenges facing this Gulf Coast resort city.

Going well beyond the initial assignment of specific officers to proactively patrol certain neighborhoods, community policing in Clearwater has become an integral part of law enforcement operations in the city. City departments, such as the Community Response Team, Public Works, and Central Permitting all work closely with the Police Department to address issues of concern to residents. Alliances with churches, community groups, social service agencies and various businesses have laid the foundation for a relationship built on trust, understanding and cooperation.

Community policing in Clearwater is a comprehensive philosophy implemented at the command staff level in cooperation with city management; administered by mid-management police supervisors tasked with team-building and resource support; and applied by all employees, sworn and civilian alike. Although community policing in Clearwater is primarily a patrol division function, its policies and coordination are integrated throughout the entire department. Community policing in Clearwater was designed and implemented with the express purpose of ensuring public safety; stimulating community involvement and organization; and establishing positive and lasting police/community relations while resolving social conflict.

In the early 1980’s, after a decade of tremendous municipal growth, police administrators recognized a continuing trend in rising crime rates and decaying police/community relations; a growing concern among residents over neighborhood violence; and the apparent ineffectiveness of the department’s traditional reactive responses toward crime in the community. These problems and their accompanying causative factors were draining the department’s resources and adversely affecting the quality of life in Clearwater. Police administrators discussed at length the problems and failures and identified numerous possible solutions before arriving at a conclusion: a new and innovative approach was needed.

Police management staff began the process by extensively researching various innovative approaches to law enforcement, which included discussions with organizations throughout the law enforcement community (i.e., the National Neighborhood Foot Patrol Center; the Flint and Detroit, Michigan Police Departments; New York City Police Department; Houston, Texas Police Department; Tampa, Florida Police Department; and Dade County, Florida Police Department.

Former Clearwater Police Chief Sid Klein, whose experience as Assistant Director of Public Safety in Lakewood, Colorado allowed him to experience the concept of "Team Policing" in the 1970’s, was a major facilitator in the development of the community policing philosophy in Clearwater. Together, Chief Klein and his management staff approached the City of Clearwater’s City Commission and City Manager with their blueprint for a police department based upon the concept of community policing. Thus began the first of a series of partnerships that over the years has led to Clearwater becoming one of the premier police agencies espousing the community policing philosophy.

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