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Published: Thursday, 9/29/2005

Union urges civilian police dispatchers


Toledo could save $470,000 over the next three years in salaries alone by hiring civilians to replace 13 police officers in the communications center, putting those officers back on the street, and reducing by that number any hiring or new police class, members of a city union have proposed.

Another $190,000 in base salaries would be saved each ensuing year and those figures do not include benefits or other contractual payouts, according to a letter signed by union stewards and some members of American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 7. The union's members include civilian communications operators.

"We're not trying to raise a stink, we're trying to raise awareness," said Chris Rettig, a steward for the operators, which may switch unions. "Everyone's behind the civilianization, but everyone keeps dragging their feet on it."

But some read the letter differently. "We took it as a personal attack to not hire more police," said Dan Wagner, vice president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association. "Our membership is up in arms."

Safety Director Joe Walter said the city plans by March to hire 15 officers and 14 communications operators to replace the 14 officers in communications. If more officers retire, more will be hired, he said.

Mr. Rettig said the letter came after word spread that background checks for a new police class were being conducted. He said it's not that his operators don't want more police, but the city should pick the option that saves the most money. If the city can hire civilians and another police class, "we'd love it," he said.

Mr. Wagner said even if police in communications go back to the street, the city is still short officers. He said some communications officers have been on the force several years, and he predicts many will retire if they are returned to street patrol.

There are two vacancies in an authorized strength of 55 civilians, Capt. Ray Carroll said.

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