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Published: Saturday, 6/2/2007

City's harbor patrol being beached as police ranks shrink

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Toledo Police harbor patrol likely will stay on shore this summer and its staff reassigned to street duty as the department begins coping with a decline in uniformed officers.

Police Chief Michael Navarre said yesterday that he is shutting down the harbor patrol, which has three full-time staff, pending a final staff review.

"They're going to be back in cars, assigned to street duty," the chief said.

He said the decision was recommended to him by a labor-management committee assembled to cope with a decline in uniformed officers caused by the city's budget crisis.

"We are no longer a police department of 700. There is no police class this year, and we're not even sure there will be a police class next year," the chief said.

A threatened $17 million deficit in the city's general fund this year prevented the city from hiring a new police class. Combined with retirements, the current uniformed staff of 675 could drop to 650 by the end of January, and possibly to 630 by the end of 2008.

The harbor patrol has operated out of the U.S. Coast Guard station at Bay View Park on Summit Street and covered the Ottawa River, the Maumee River, and Maumee Bay.

Dan Wagner, president of the

Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, said he disagreed with the patrol's beaching.

He said it should have been allowed to operate this summer and that the three officers should have been pulled from one of the other units that are targeted for cutbacks, such as the mounted patrol and the mountain-bike unit.

"Now you're leaving the waters pretty much uncontrolled locally. It leaves citizens in a dangerous situation," Officer Wagner said. He said the patrol is needed when large numbers of boaters flock downtown, such as last night's Rally by the River in Promenade Park.

He said one of the most important things the harbor patrol does is enforce the no-wake zone between the Anthony Wayne Bridge and Brenner Marine during the rallies.

The harbor patrol has two boats. It also had three WaveRunner personal watercraft, leased at a nominal fee from a local business, that are being returned.

At least one of the patrol's two boats, a Boston Whaler acquired five years ago with a federal grant, will be left in the water for this summer and will be activated for special events like the opening of the new Veterans' Glass City Skyway and the Independence Day and Labor Day holiday weekends.

The chief said the Lucas County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Coast Guard will still patrol the rivers and bay. Mr. Wagner said the Ohio Department of Natural Resources also patrols the river. But he said none of those entities will provide the concentrated coverage the harbor patrol has offered.

Also facing cutbacks: community services, investigative services, vice/metro, the mounted patrol, and the mountain bike unit. The chief said the aviation unit has already been grounded except for emergencies and mandatory flight-training time.

"My goal is not to reduce street strength. I want the same number of officers in cars because I don't want an increase in response time," he said.

The chief said the harbor patrol has been temporarily docked before.

"We've gone through some difficult times where the harbor patrol was reassigned like we're doing now," Chief Navarre said.

The city had as many as 735 uniformed officers in the 1990s. In 1982, during a previous budget crisis, the department dipped to 620 officers, with 45 civilians. Today's staff of 675 uniformed officers is aided by about 120 civilian employees.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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