Toledo police Chief Mike Navarre said he planned to budget for 20 new police officers next year, enough to maintain the department's current strength.
During a Toledo City Council public safety committee hearing yesterday, the chief sought to dampen fears that Toledo is in a public safety crisis. He also defended police officers' times of responding to crime reports as "adequate."
He said many of the homicides that have occurred this year - including most of the nine that occurred between Sept. 17 and Sept. 25 - involved victims who were connected with illegal activity.
"In the early 1980s, we had a lot of innocent people who were randomly selected and killed for no reason," Chief Navarre said. "That's not what's happening here in 2006.
"Toledo is a safe city," he said.
Toledo has had 24 homicides so far this year. Last year, there were a total of 30 homicides. The city's homicide peak during the last 30 years was 60 in 1980; the least number of homicides was 15 in 2000.
Council members are expecting to be forced to make spending cuts for the 2007 budget, and some council members and council candidates have called on the Finkbeiner administration to hire 30 new police officers.
The administration has asked each department director to propose cuts of 7 percent in 2007. However, Finance Director John Sherburne has said the actual budget cuts - if any - have not been decided yet.
The chief said there were about 16 retirements this year and 29 new officers hired. The next class of 20 is expected to be hired in March, 2007, for the six-month training period, to replace a projected 20 retirements.
"The plan is to start a class of 20 in March, unless I'm told differently," the chief said.
Toledo has 692 sworn officers, the second-lowest number since 1993, and down from 736 in 1996.
Chief Navarre said the growing number of civilians doing desk jobs once done by uniformed officers has increased the proportion of officers on the street.
"You have to look at total strength of the police department. We are using a lot more civilians than in the past," he said.
He distributed a chart showing that Toledo has 2.2 officers per 1,000 people, which is fewer than Columbus and Dayton (2.4), Cincinnati (3), and Cleveland (3.3), but more than Akron (1.8).
The chief said police officers' response time of about 6 1/2 minutes to "Priority 1" calls compares with under 10 minutes as the standard. Priority 1 calls are those involving crimes or emergencies involving actual or potential serious injuries.
At-large council candidate Joe McNamara yesterday called for the city to hire 30 officers in 2007. And he said the police officer assigned full time to Toledo City Council as sergeant-at-arms should be assigned to the field except when council meetings are taking place. Mr. McNamara is an unendorsed Democrat on the Nov. 7 ballot.
Another at-large candidate, endorsed Democratic interim Councilman Lourdes Santiago, said she was satisfied with the chief's plans for 20 new officers in 2007. However, she announced she would oppose any effort by the administration to cut funding for the police officers assigned to Toledo and Washington Local public junior and senior high schools. So far, no cuts have been proposed.
Unendorsed Democrat Bob Vasquez said the 20-member class advocated by Chief Navarre is inadequate, and that the department needs to increase routine patrols of neighborhoods.
"I believe he's underestimating the number of officers the community would feel comfortable with," Mr. Vasquez said.
Endorsed Republican Dave Schulz said he would support hiring more officers but wanted to see what city services would have to be cut.