BELLEAIR BEACH - Sheriff Jim Coats this week emphatically denied that he is enticing Belleair Beach police officers to his department and said that the accusation that he had interfered in police negotiations in Belleair Beach is false.
The police department has been in disarray for weeks.
Ernie Armistead, who had been chief, left at the end of August to join the Sheriff's Office.
Coats said, "Ernie was planning to leave BBPD and was in search of a police chief's job. I hired Ernie who had not previously applied to (my department)."
Coats said he also hired a part time Belleair Beach officer who was a full time county code enforcement who had not previously applied to PCSO.
Another officer was hired from Belleair Beach, Coats said, who had previously applied to his department. She was not hired the first time, he said, because she was recovering from an injury and was unable to perform the physical agility test.
"All the cops from BBPD have applied to the Sheriff's Office," Coats said, "but have not been hired. I would not hire them out from under the city unless the city blessed it."
Coats went on to say that he had been accused of interfering with union negotiations. "This is not true," he said. "I have nothing to do with BBPD union issues. Bottom line is if the city wants to keep its police department and retain the cops, they need to pay a fair salary."
While the turmoil goes on in Belleair Beach and Coats abjures any part in it, the sheriff does have his eye on bringing the city, along with Belleair, under his jurisdiction.
Belleair Bluffs the intervening city between the two is already policed by sheriff's deputies. A sweep of jurisdiction from Belleair, through Belleair Bluffs and Belleair Beach and into Indian Rocks Beach (also now policed by the PCS) would make sense practically and economically.
But as far as wooing Belleair Beach officers, Coats says it is just not true.
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