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Letter to Editor by Scientology attorney,
Wally Pope 3-28-01

Copyright Times Publishing Co., March 28, 2001

I have been serving as counsel for the Church of Scientology in connection with the ongoing court proceedings to restore some measure of peace to downtown Clearwater. The peace has been breached by the members of the Lisa McPherson Trust, who came to Clearwater and mounted loud, crude and vulgar attacks against the church and its members. The church obtained an injunction against the Lisa McPherson Trust and its members, the purpose of which was to set up some basic ground rules for both the church and the members of the trust.

Recently, the court found Robert Minton, the leader and financier of the Lisa McPherson Trust, to be in criminal contempt of the court's injunction.Minton was fined $500 and put on probation for six months. One of his colleagues was also convicted of criminal contempt for violating theinjunction.

Your editorial, Police work for Scientology, takes the Clearwater Police Department to task for making available to the church the very same police services that are made available to 50 different organizations in Clearwater. You argue that it is acceptable to discriminate against the church and deny it the availability of police services because the police merely direct traffic for other churches. Would it be acceptable if the police were only directing traffic for the Church of Scientology instead of preserving civil order? If the skinheads mounted a protest operation against a local synagogue, would you deny the synagogue the opportunity to participate in the Police Department's program to preserve public order?

One of the points you make is that the police can't be objective under these circumstances. One of the facts you omit from your editorial is that the Lisa McPherson Trust has on at least two occasions hired Clearwater police officers in the same program to provide security at its functions. If the police are providing officers to these two adversaries and to other local organizations on an evenhanded basis, how have the police been  compromised?

You also failed to discuss how the program actually operates. The police remain under the command of the Police Department. The police are performing normal police duties subject to all of the rules, regulations and laws governing police work. In fact, the term "off duty" is a misnomer. This work is considered to be "extra duty." The party hiring the police does not pay the police officers directly. The officers are performing police work in the normal course, but a third party pays for it, at a savings to the taxpayers of the city.

In the nine days of court hearings leading to the finding that Minton and one of his colleagues were guilty of criminal contempt, several police officers testified as to their observations of various incidents. There was not one shred of evidence that the Clearwater Police Department or any of its officers had in any way been compromised by participating in the extra-duty program.

The extra-duty police officer program is a creative way to expand the availability of police services to the community without the taxpayers having to foot the bill. You ought to be praising it instead of trying to undermine it because an organization you don't like is using it.

-- F. Wallace Pope Jr., Clearwater