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Clearwater Beacon
A homegrown leader
Clearwater to swear in new police chief
Daniel Slaughter will be sworn in Aug. 7
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Photo by ALEXANDRA LUNDAHL
Daniel Slaughter will soon be the 13th Clearwater Police Chief. Slaughter will be sworn in Aug. 7.
CLEARWATER – In a speedy, smooth transition Daniel Slaughter is set to be sworn in as the new Clearwater police chief on Aug. 7, barely over two weeks after Police Chief Anthony Holloway announced that he had accepted the top job in the St. Petersburg Police Department.

Selecting a new leader

Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne said there were three very strong internal candidates, and after meeting with them and reviewing their resumes, he said it was clear that Slaughter was an excellent pick for the position. Horne said he used the same criteria that he used when he selected Holloway as the last police chief.

“Someone who has unquestioned credibility as a police professional officer, and Dan has excellent and outstanding police credentials,” Horne said. “Someone who is a leader, someone who the rank and file will see as a leader and follow him as they do their jobs out on the street every day. Someone who has rapport with the neighborhoods and community and is well thought of. Someone who is well thought of by his peers on the Clearwater city staff, and he is. And he is someone, I believe, who is really the right person for us.”

Additionally, Horne said Slaughter is well respected by the other governmental agencies that interact with the department, plus Slaughter is completely on board with community policing and the initiatives that have been implemented under Holloway.

Mayor George Cretekos said he is pleased with the new chief.

“I am pleased with this rapid decision and the quality of our new chief and his background,” Cretekos said. “He has risen through the ranks, he knows the men and women of our department, he knows the community, they have confidence in him, and he has a track record of which all of us can be proud.”

The other candidates were Deputy Chief Sandra Wilson and Major Donald Hall, criminal investigations division commander who supervises the detectives, Horne said. All were highly qualified, he said, but he felt that Slaughter best exemplified all of the qualities he was looking for in the next chief.

Rising through the ranks

“I feel very humbled,” Slaughter said. “I’m just really, it’s been kind of a whirlwind since it happened so fast, but I’m just taken aback by the tremendous report I’ve received from the city manager’s office, from the council, from the community, from my peers and my workers in this department. It’s just been very overwhelming.”

Slaughter, 44, has worked for the Clearwater Police Department his entire career and was hired in his last semester at the University of South Florida where he studied criminology. He had started out pursuing a degree in aeronautical engineering, but after a friend started working for the department, something clicked and Slaughter realized that is what he wanted to do, too.

“Just like my wife is my soul mate, I have the same connection to the profession,” Slaughter said. “Sounds a little corny, but it’s true. I thrive on the exigency of things. I thrive on the phone going off at 2 in the morning and dealing with a problem and stabilizing that problem. The challenge of being able to do that is rewarding.”

Slaughter was born outside of Omaha and moved to Pinellas County in high school and graduated from Largo High. In his time with Clearwater police, he has worked in community policing, in field training, in sex crimes investigations and then drifted into detective work.

He worked in the robbery and homicide department and enjoyed working there for four years, and it played to his strengths, he said. From there, he became a patrol sergeant and supervised the training of new recruits, then eventually transitioned back to being a sergeant in the burglary and economic crimes unit. Next, he worked in the office of professional affairs – otherwise known as internal affairs – and spent a lot of time working there.

“I was an accreditation manager and dealt with policy compliance and policy drafting and revisions and internal affairs cases of course, and personnel functions,” Slaughter said. “It really gave me good experience on how to run a police department. That really is a good training ground for future leaders.”

During his time there, he helped get the department reaccredited, which is a large administrative task and to get the morale of the agency behind that. Then he went back on the beach as a sergeant but quickly became a lieutenant of special operations, which includes a lot of different areas, he said. In his most recent role, he was a major and was patrol division commander, which meant managing the largest division of the department.

Slaughter said that the police department as a whole has done an excellent job developing many capable leaders, which is why he is so humbled to have been selected. This kind of development of top people is built into the department’s DNA, he said, and he will continue to carry on this strong tradition.

He wants the public to know that he is committed to maintaining the good relationship with the community that the department has, and he looks forward to getting to know the citizens even better and to remain accessible to them.

“I want them to know that I am grateful for being given this opportunity, and I won’t let them down,” Slaughter said.

He has now served under two chiefs in the department, and Slaughter said he has learned a great deal from both men.

“Both of them are strikingly different leaders, but both of them have provided me great insight to create who I am today,” Slaughter said. “I think Chief Holloway has definitely brought us to a new level of being connected to the community, and I’ve learned that for him, and that will be part of my work ethic until the day I die. Chief (Sid) Klein was very good at grooming internal talent and developing leaders and empowering people, and I will continue to empower people as well. They’re both fabulous men and I appreciate everything they have done to develop me the way they have.”

A strong department

The department is strong, cohesive and has great morale, he said, though the trick is to not get complacent. Therefore, he will continue to identify the right problems, and of course help stabilize the immediate ripple effect of the current vacancies from promotions and resignations.

Slaughter also plans to continue using the CompStat policing philosophy that Holloway instilled.

“We look at trends and we react to trends,” Slaughter said. “So whatever that trend may be, there’s a mechanism in place to address it. But I think in this community, we’re focused on the four things we’ve always been focused on, which are burglaries, robberies, drugs and prostitution. We believe all crime kind of tracks back to that. That is something that Chief Holloway instilled here, but there is complete buy-in within the organization.”

Regarding burglaries, that is a lot about prevention, Slaughter said. For instance, so many vehicle burglaries in the cities are due to people leaving their doors unlocked, he said.

“It’s such an easy fix to prevent such significant crime,” Slaughter said, “but it ends up being such a large portion. So we’ll continue to put a lot of education and crime prevention messages out there to continue to try to get people to lock their car doors. And with key fobs and everything, that’s about the easiest thing that you can do nowadays.”

In addition to education, Slaughter believes that the department is headed in positive directions in a number of areas. Even historical trouble spots, such as the North Greenwood area, have come a long way and are not what they used to be. He recalls that when he first became an officer in the early 1990s, a veteran of 20 years said to him that he should have seen the area 20 years ago. Only just a few days ago, Slaughter said he found himself saying those exact words to a junior member of the department.

“Where I see us playing a part in the North Greenwood community moving forward is kind of expanding or things we’re already doing,” Slaughter said. “We’re really starting to invest a lot in the youth up there, and we will continue to invest with the youth and do more things with the youth to engage them. We recognize that they are our future and that creating this situation where crime is not really a viable option is the goal.”

Such programs that deal directly with that strategy are Operation Graduate, which deals with credit recovery and helps kids graduate on time; dual enrollment programs; Clearwater for Youth; and also being active partners with the parks and recreation department to create positive opportunities for young people throughout the city, he said.

Another area Clearwater police has been active in is its involvement with the Clearwater Area Task Force Against Human Trafficking in the fight against these crimes.

“We were very active and involved in it from the beginning of when it was being discussed, but I think you’re really seeing a lot of other law enforcement agencies getting on board now and recognizing it as a problem,” Slaughter said. “I don’t think you’ll see a change with our type of enforcement in that area; if anything, we’ll do even more to partner with organizations and make smooth cases.”

Human trafficking is a huge and important problem to address, he said, and advancements in technology are perpetually making it easier for perpetrators to hide what they are doing and harder for detectives to get to them. Therefore, it’s important for the department and its partners to continue to actively fight these crimes and stay up to date on the best ways to thwart the criminals.

Similarly, the same technology is driving child predators to the internet, and Slaughter will also continue to keep the heat on those kinds of perpetrators. He reminds parents that it is crucial to know what their children are doing online, and the department will continue its educational efforts on Internet safety.

Finally, Slaughter said the city has also been making great strides in dealing with the problem of homelessness within the city. This is a citywide issue, he said, that involves getting access to multiple agencies and services.

“It’s a good example of how we’ve tried to not enforce our way out of a problem,” Slaughter said. “We’ve recognized that homelessness is not a crime, but it has definitely a quality of life impact, with drug-related dependency and mental health issues that are associated with homelessness and we are really committed to using that process to get people to services. We’ve dipped into social work probably a little bit, but it’s the right thing to do, and I think we’ve seen a positive impact in the community.”

Holloway will continue to serve in an advisory role as a special assistant to the city manager through Tuesday, Aug. 12 and will be sworn in as the St. Petersburg police chief on Thursday, Aug. 14.

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