There’s a new cop walking the beat downtown.
Officer Clem Fiol recently took over the job of protecting the historic business district, including those who work and shop there.
But he’s not exactly a stranger to the territory.
During the last holiday season, Fiol was assigned to a special downtown patrol. He quickly became a favorite for his outgoing, gregarious personality.
“I decided he’d be a good fit for the job,” Police Chief Steve Singletary said.
Officer Mark Dunnam, who had the position for two years, was promoted to training coordinator, leaving the job open for Fiol.
His beat includes downtown and the city’s two public housing projects. The 51-year-old officer is already striving to build rapport throughout his territory.
“I want to be highly visible downtown and accessible,” he said. “We want people to know us and not be afraid of us. We want them to respect us but we want them to know we are here to help them.”
His recent duties have included crime prevention – by spreading the word to merchants about counterfeit $1 and $5 bills in circulation – and curbing aggressive panhandlers who were approaching female employees of a downtown restaurant when they arrived for the early morning shift.
He plans to keep a high profile during such special events as downtown’s monthly motorcycle and car shows. During the most recent Planes, Trains and Automobiles festival at Plant City Airport, he arranged with his supervisor, Sgt. Trey Towles, for the department’s mobile command center to be on display.
Fiol retired as a deputy with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and moved out of state, but soon decided to return to Florida and law enforcement. In July, he joined the Plant City Police Department.
He likes to walk his beat and chat up virtually everyone he meets. During a recent day, he encountered Karen Scott of Mulberry, who was walking by McCall Park with her mother Ruth Snow of Newfoundland, Canada. Scott was pushing a stroller with sons 10-month-old Evan and 2-year-old Jake.
Scott said she was delighted that the officer stopped to talk to the family.
“I’m a nurse and I work in the emergency room so I’m used to talking to the police. I know they help keep us safe and really watch out for us. I appreciate the fact that he’s here.”