They have called at least five black police officers with questions about racial harmony in the department, police spokesman Wayne Shelor said.
Attorney Andra Dreyfus, who represents several officers in personnel matters with the department, says she has received numerous telephone calls from the publication's representatives over the last few weeks.
"They are attempting to unearth dirty laundry," Dreyfus said, adding that she will not talk with them. She says the callers are not honest about who they are until she presses them.
"They're not only calling to pester me, they refuse to hang up," she said.
She said believes Scientology is attempting to "ride the coattails" of people like her clients.
"I would never allow myself or my clients to be used in that manner," she said.
Scientology spokesman Brian Anderson said the magazine is investigating the treatment of minority groups by the police department. He said the recent calls and requests for files are part of a long-term, ongoing investigation by the church.
"We want to see to what extent there is ill feeling toward minority groups," Anderson said.
He said he and Freedom staff from Los Angeles have called Dreyfus, but have never tied up her telephone lines and have not called excessively.
As for digging up "dirty laundry," Anderson said, "I think sunshine is the best disinfectant. If the Clearwater Police Department is mistreating minorities, then let's fix it."
Shelor acknowledges the department isn't perfect, but says it has tried to recruit minorities for years with little success.
In a Feb. 14 memo, the city's Human Resources director, Mike Laursen, said the magazine's interest in the police department's files "may relate to a situation that has been in the local news media concerning conclusions of the Medical Examiner."
Anderson said there is no connection.
Medical Examiner Joan Wood, Clearwater police, the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are investigating the death of Lisa McPherson, a Scientologist whose last days were spent at Scientology's Clearwater headquarters.
An autopsy by Wood's office showed McPherson, 36, was bruised and severely dehydrated when she died of a blood clot in December 1995. Scientology has sued Wood to obtain her records related to the McPherson case. McPherson's aunt has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Scientology.
On Thursday, police said they have located Suzanne Schnuremberger, who is one of the three former Scientologists they sought to interview in the case. Shelor said she is in another country.
"Investigators have located her, but her attorney will not let them speak to her," Shelor said. "It is my understanding that lawyers ostensibly representing the other two [witnesses] have contacted my detectives."
Police declined to identify the lawyers.
Shelor said the Freedom representatives are interested in the personnel and internal affairs files of Police Chief Sid Klein, Deputy Chief Paul Maser, Detective Sgt. Wayne Andrews, Sgt. Tom Miller and retired Lt. Ray Emmons. Andrews is the detective investigating McPherson's death.
"Being familiar with their style of `journalism,' I have every suspicion that their intentions are less than honorable," Shelor said.
It is rumoured that Lisa McPherson was paid $135,000 a year, and she worked for a scientologist run publisher. Shortly before her death, she reportedly told her best friend from high school, a woman from whom she had been estranged for eighteen years due to the scientologists' insistence that you "disconnect" from your previous friends and relatives, that she was leaving scientology, and that she "had been doing something wrong without knowing it."
Let us leave that conundrum to return anon.
Go to your local scientology organization and look at the people there. They are mostly young, a few are middle aged, and they are overwhelmingly
Knowing that this noisy, hypocritical investigation is timed as the officers targeted are investigating the death of Lisa McPherson, I have some questions. What is it about Lisa leaving the scientologists that make them deny it so vehemently? What did she do for their front company that merited $135,000 a year? What was it that she was "doing wrong" without knowing it? Could it have been that she was laundering money? Or possibly diverting funds from a taxable business to a (for now) non- taxable church? The questions demand answers.