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Published: Thursday, 7/31/2008

33 cadets to be part of Toledo police academy

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA AND BRIDGET THARP
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

Toledo police Chief Mike Navarre said yesterday the city's police class for 2008 would begin with 33 cadets on Dec. 1 - up from the originally planned class of 25.

That would allow the city to maintain 635 officers at the end of 2009, which is roughly the same number there will be on the force at the end of this year.

The department is able to hire the eight additional recruits by pushing the start of the class back from Oct. 1.

The chief also announced that three civilians in the communications office were fired this week for violating the city's residency requirements.

The chief made the announcements during a Toledo City Council committee hearing on staff reductions at the northwest district station in West Toledo. Earlier this month, Chief Navarre moved more than 50 patrol officers from the station at 2330 West Sylvania Ave. to the department's other two stations in an effort to save $500,000.

Also included in his cutbacks was a reduction in the police radio communication system, now using two rather than three channels.

The new officers will be on the streets about June 1. They will need to complete six months of training and be Toledo residents by the start of the class.

"My goal is to keep a minimum of 300 officers assigned to field operations. Right now, that number is 296," the chief said.

Chief Navarre said he believes in the district station concept and assured council the northwest station would be manned 24 hours a day by at least one officer.

Councilman Tom Waniewski, in whose district the northwest station is located, said the city needs to maintain a strong police presence in West Toledo neighborhoods, such as Old Orchard.

"We pay the income tax," he said. "We have to get those officers back or people will migrate to Sylvania and Michigan."

Regarding the fired communications officers, Chief Navarre said the dismissals would have a "great impact" on overtime costs but could not estimate an amount.

Dena Rieger, Chris Rettig, and Adam Holcombe were given their notices of dismissal at home. Each was paid $37,947 annually.

Ms. Rieger, 35, is a single mother of two who first left South Toledo for Fulton County for better educational opportunities for her 15-year-old daughter with special needs.

Her daughter was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder after leaving Toledo Public Schools and is now excelling at Evergreen High School, she said.

"I'm not making excuses for myself, but I would do it again for my daughter," she said.

"I'm in panic mode. I put my applications in today. I need something for my kids. It was unexpected, but there is nothing I can do."

The other two people couldn't be reached for comment.

Don Czerniak, president of American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 7, believes the dismissals will worsen the city's budget crisis by forcing emergency dispatchers into more overtime.

He said there were 87 dispatch positions 10 years ago, but with vacancies and the firings only 76 remain.

"They are forced to work the overtime because they are short of manpower," he said.

"It's the administration because they've played with the budget in the last seven years, and they've eliminated 911 dispatchers out of the budget to offset other areas. They've increased the overtime which has caused a burden on the city in trying times," he said.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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