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Published: Monday, 7/4/2011

Cleveland's finest

Toledo officials express reservations about hiring laid-off Cleveland police officers to supplement this city's blue ranks. But the idea should not be dismissed if the strongest argument against it becomes, essentially, "not invented here."

Cleveland's police force added 42 graduates of the city's police academy last month -- and promptly laid them off because of budget problems. Mayor Mike Bell has raised the possibility of bringing some of those officers here, since Toledo's police academy will not graduate its next class until April, 2012. The police department expects at least 15 of its 559 sworn officers to retire this summer.

Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre told the Blade editorial board he has not ruled out recruiting the Cleveland officers, as other large cities are doing. But he says it's not clear when Cleveland will recall the laid-off officers: union officials there say it could take as long as two years.

But if it's just "a couple of months," the chief says, bringing them to Toledo could be counterproductive. He notes that the department hired "eight or nine" former Detroit police officers several years ago; all but one eventually went back there.

Chief Navarre observes that while the Cleveland officers are trained, they have not spent a day on patrol. So even if Toledo hired them Monday, he says, they would need to spend several months in field training and would not be available for immediate deployment.

He adds that he is exploring other ways to boost the department's ranks before the next academy class comes on board. "We need people right now," he says.

City officials offer several other objections: differences between Toledo and Cleveland in academy training procedures, police department operations, civil service rules and eligibility policies, and municipal codes. Surely, though, none of those differences is so great as to be insurmountable, if the city is determined to overcome them. The ability to hire officers whom other taxpayers have paid to train is an added incentive.

The city bent its rule against hiring public safety employees from other departments this year, when it absorbed Ottawa Hills firefighters under the village's merger of fire operations with Toledo. It could do so again.

At a time when Toledo is enduring an unsettling increase in gun violence, city officials should look at every credible way to include, not exclude, police officers who would be available to patrol city streets.

The Cleveland option deserves full examination.



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