Scientologists Attack Police Chief In Letter

Source: St. Petersburg Times
Date: December 7, 1997

The Church of Scientology raised the temperature Saturday in its new campaign against Clearwater Police Chief Sid Klein, calling him "reactionary" and bigoted, and blaming him for "a two-decade pattern of discrimination" against the church.

At the same time, church officials insisted that they should not be accused of stirring up controversy and said Scientologists should receive more credit for the community events they support.

They also made clear that their dispute is with Klein and not other officials at City Hall.

But Klein's boss, City Manager Mike Roberto, called the church's statements "extremely discouraging" and said he fully supports the chief.

"I think our attention really needs to be on the bigger issues in the community and not on these kinds of fights," Roberto said. "I think everybody needs to take a collective breath and just calm down right now, because we have so much at stake. When people get wrapped up in their particular interests, they tend to get overly emotional about it."

The church kicked off the campaign against Klein Friday night as 3,000 to 4,000 Scientologists held candles and demonstrated in front of police headquarters, many of them angrily chanting, "Sid Klein, what's your crime?"

On Saturday, church officials turned up the heat in a nine-page letter to Klein and during interviews with reporters as about 30 anti-Scientology protesters picketed Scientology's Fort Harrison Hotel.

The pickets were marking the death of Lisa McPherson, the 36-year-old Scientologist who died in 1995 after fellow church members cared for her over 17 days. Police this month are expected to conclude their two-year investigation of the death.

Scientology's letter, signed by church spokesman Brian Anderson, outlined an array of grievances against Klein, at one point refering to him derisively as "Big Sid."

It also demanded "straight answers" to the church's questions Friday concerning police department records. The church has strongly suggested it is planning a civil rights lawsuit against the city and has put Klein on notice that he should keep any relevant documents in order, including tape recordings of his conversations.

"I want assurance that you aren't destroying evidence," Anderson wrote, adding later in the letter: "Stop acting like I'm trying to stir up controversy. We have a several-year record of doing everything in our power to create friendly community relations."

The letter accused Klein's department of being obsessed with Scientology, of turning the McPherson case into "an international incident," and of giving aid and comfort to the anti-Scientology protesters who picketed Friday and Saturday in front of the Fort Harrison Hotel.

It said the church had records showing police stole Scientology materials during an inspection of a church property. It also said complaints of church members are too often dismissed and kept in a separate file labeled "Scientologist."

"Enough of your disingenuous claims of objectivity," Anderson wrote.

But he ended the letter writing: "We'd like to be your friend," and offered a holiday wish for a "brighter future which we all should have together."

Klein could not be reached after the letter was released, but his spokesman, Wayne Shelor, dismissed it as "a schizophrenic diatribe."

He said it is another Scientology attempt to "subvert and pervert" the police investigation into McPherson's death.

Klein was interviewed earlier Saturday after Scientology officials began to outline their positions to reporters.

"I fully anticipate they're going to file a lawsuit at one time or another," the chief said. "It doesn't matter what we do anyway. Then, the burden of proof will be on them."

One of Anderson's complaints was that Klein and his officers chose to stand watch over the anti-Scientology protesters Friday night instead of going to watch the church's protest against Klein.

To Anderson, that proved Klein's lack of objectivity. It demonstrated that Klein had more interest in the anti-Scientology efforts than in the church's protest.

Klein said his officers were surprised Friday night when thousands of Scientologists appeared two blocks away for a march around police headquarters and the Clearwater office of the Times. He said church officials had promised not to demonstrate against the anti-Scientology protesters.

Church officials insisted Saturday they had kept their promise. They weren't counter-demonstrating, they explained. They were marching for the separate purpose of protesting Klein's policies.

"That's a matter of interpretation," Klein said.

He said the bottom line was that it forced him to pull several squads, each with five or six officers, from other areas of the city. Several neighborhoods went unpatrolled, he said.

"All of which could have been avoided if they had just told us," Klein said. "It's their little games that are very frustrating."