CLEARWATER – Whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney wins the Nov. 6 presidential election, Clearwater cops will be in Washington as part of the security force for his inauguration.
“They will be sworn in as special marshals for the event,” police Chief Anthony Holloway told the Clearwater City Council at its Oct. 15 work session. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to get the officers involved in something like this.”
At its Oct. 18 meeting, the council is expected to approve a memorandum of understanding among the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia; the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C.; and the city of Clearwater, which will outline the mission of the Presidential Inauguration Task Force.
“The purpose of the memorandum of understanding is to define relationships between the U.S. Marshal Service, Metropolitan Police Department and the city of Clearwater, as well as other participating agencies with regard to policy, guidance, utilization of resources, planning, training, public relations and media in order to maximize interagency cooperation,” a staff memo to the council explained. “The mission of the Presidential Inauguration Task Force is to achieve maximum cooperation and coordination in bringing to bear combined resources to effectively implement measures to promote the safety of the president of the United States, inaugural participants, the public, visitors and residents while allowing individuals and groups to exercise their legal rights.
“All units that are participating agencies will coordinate their activities and be considered a member of the PITF, sharing information and coordinating investigative and law enforcement efforts which may result from any apprehensions originating from the PITF.”
The Clearwater contingent will consist of a lieutenant, four sergeants and ten officers, according to Elizabeth Watts, public information officer for Clearwater’s police and fire departments. They will be in Washington from Wednesday to Tuesday, Jan. 16 to 22, 2013.
Presidential inaugurations are traditionally held on Jan. 20. But that date will fall on a Sunday next year, so the official swearing-in will be held on January 20, and the celebration will be held the next day.
The task force will be headed by a Tactical Team Commander selected from one of the participating agencies. He or she will coordinate activities with the U.S. Secret Service and the Washington, D.C. police, both of which must approve any actions taken by the task force.
Watts said that Chief Holloway learned of the program when he was police chief of the Boston suburb of Somerville, Mass. and sent some officers to the 2009 presidential inauguration. He applied to send 15 Clearwater to the 2013 inauguration and his application was approved.
While deputized, the Clearwater cops are considered temporary federal employees, and the city will be reimbursed for their salaries. If hurt on duty, they would be covered by the same insurance as federal law enforcement officers and, if permanently disabled while serving on the inaugural task force, they would receive a federal disability pension.
“It is exciting to be in D.C. for an inauguration,” Mayor George Cretekos said in support of the plan.
“I believe it is important that we represent the City of Clearwater in something like this,” Councilmember Doreen Hock-DiPolito agreed.
But Vice Mayor Paul Gibson worried that reimbursement for the inauguration might be as slow in coming as the money the Clearwater Police Department is still owed for the services it provided to the recent Republican National Convention.
Chief Holloway said that he is still waiting to hear back from Tampa regarding the disposition of those funds.