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Former Clearwater police Chief Frank Daniels dead at 85

CLEARWATER — Former police chief Frank Daniels, whose law enforcement career spanned more than 30 years, died Sunday. He was 85.

Daniels became Clearwater’s police chief in 1968, replacing Willis Booth, and served until 1980, when he retired to run for Pinellas County sheriff. While that bid for public office was unsuccessful, the support he drew from his officers showed how much affection they had for him. Many campaigned on Daniels’ behalf on their days off, said Dewey Williams, whom Daniels hired in 1977.

“He was just very respected by all the troops,” said Williams, who retired in 2009 as an assistant police chief in Clearwater.

“There was quite a bit of support for him.”

Born in Lake Wales in 1927, Daniels served in the U.S. Army for three years before beginning his law enforcement career with the Clearwater Police Department in 1949.

As police chief, Daniels started a victim’s assistance program, personally interviewed every prospective officer, established a modern communications system and settled the racial tensions surrounding the department.

He also spearheaded a central dispatch center for the Largo, Dunedin and Clearwater police departments, headquartered in Clearwater, Williams said.

Daniels was ahead of the curve when it came to bringing technology into police work, said Frank Palombo, who joined the Clearwater Police Department in 1977.

While Daniels made sure his officers had the tools he needed, it was the way he treated them that made him special, Palombo said.

“He knew what cops were going through on a day-to-day basis because he’d been out there,” said Palombo, who retired two years ago as the police chief in New Bern, N.C.

“You could talk to him man-to-man. ... You felt like you were talking with somebody who really cared about what you had to say.”

A memorial service for Daniels is scheduled on Oct. 12 at Moss Feaster Funeral Home at 13401 Indian Rocks Road in Largo.

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