If you are ever in Clearwater, Fla.,and see a man wearing a black uniform with a shiny badge on the chest,an embroidered star on a shoulder and a set of handcuffs on the belt, do not assume the man is a police officer. He may just be a Scientologist dressed to look like a police officer.
Clearwater city officials, and especially police department officials, are dismayed that Scientology "security guards" have adopted outfits that look strikingly similar to Clearwater police uniforms. They are further dismayed that the guards are conducting "training drills" in the downtown that look like police chases. Virtually the only way to distinguish the Scientology security guards from city police officers is that the Scientologists do not carry firearms. The fine print on their insignia also says "Church of Scientology Security."
Police and city officials fear residents and tourists may mistake the guards for real police. The city attorney has sent a letter to Scientology officials asking them to change to uniforms that would easily distinguish the Scientologists from police officers, but church officials have refused to do so.
Church spokesman Brian Anderson said people "feel safer" with the church security guards in town. He also said that in Los Angeles, church guards routinely arrest people and turn them over to police. Anderson said uniformed Scientology security guards make as much as one to two arrests a week in the Hollywood area.
A Los Angeles police spokesman said he knows of no relationship between police and Scientology guards. In March 1994, Clearwater Police Chief Sid Klein warned Scientology security guards after they "arrested" a man in town. "I want to reinforce very strongly my stand on Scientology employees taking the law into their own hands. Church of Scientology security employees have absolutely no power of arrest," Klein wrote in a 1994 letter to the church.
Police officials have said they fear someone watching a Scientology training drill may think an actual police chase is in progress and intervene, pos sibly injuring himself or others. Recently, for instance, a man carrying a briefcase and a video tape pretended to be a thief and was chased by uniformed guards, who handcuffed him and brought him back to church property.
Last fall, a woman told Clearwater police a Scientology security guard chased her through downtown shouting that he would kill her for breaking her "billion year contact." The church said it was an "expression" rather than a genuine threat. The woman told police she was reluctant to call them because Scientologists had told her that police work "hand-in-hand" with Scientology.
(From "Scientologists or Clearwater police officers?" by Cheryl Waldrip, Tampa Tribune, May 13, 1996, Pinellas Section, p. 1.)