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Published: Tuesday, 1/10/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

City police, fire officials craft leaner 2012 budgets

Collins urges chiefs to fill vacant positions

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

When Toledo police Chief Derrick Diggs took over as the top command officer in October, he announced grand plans to help move the department into the 21st century, using technology and data to supplement old-fashioned police work.

At a budget hearing Monday, Councilman D. Michael Collins said bold plans won't work if the department doesn't have enough personnel, and urged department officials to reconsider where money will go from the proposed 2012 budget — which includes technological advancements. He pushed instead, for authorities to free up funds to fill vacant positions.

"With the violence in this city, you can't operate with these numbers," the councilman told Chief Diggs.

Police department officials proposed a budget of about $73 million. In that proposal, however, no funds are allocated to fill 23 civilian vacancies in the records and communications sections.

The department, Mr. Collins said, is already operating with the lowest per capita police force in the state.

The department, as of Monday, had 545 sworn police officers and 40 recruits in the academy who are expected to graduate in May. After a record-breaking year of 59 retirements, the department will still be at a loss when the recruits are sworn in as officers. Chief Diggs said he anticipates another 50 officers will retire this year.

"We're doing the best we can," the chief said.

One of the department's major undertakings is the implementation of a Real Time Crime Center, which will cost about $800,000 for 75 cameras to be placed around the city.

The funds for the project will primarily come from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund, which is made up of money seized during investigations and from the department's auto auctions. Funding the Real Time Crime Center will nearly deplete the trust fund, authorities said Monday.

"Who is going to watch these cameras?" Mr. Collins asked.

He added that "you can have all the cameras in the world" but they won't solve crimes and will be less useful if there isn't anyone to monitor the video feeds.

"The budget is less than anemic," Mr. Collins said. "There's no blood left in the system."

The Toledo Fire and Rescue Department also presented a slimmed-down budget Monday to the Public Safety, Law, and Criminal Justice Committee. The department is proposing a 2012 budget of $59,899,094 — almost $4 million less than what was proposed in 2011.

In 2012, the department is budgeting $2 million for overtime, about $1.4 million less than was budgeted in 2011.

Fire Chief Luis Santiago said the department is "taking strides" to get overtime spending under control.

The fire department, which also had a historic number of retirements in 2011 — 39 — currently has 502 uniformed firefighters.

The fire department has a class of fire recruits set to start the academy in December, although the committee said moving the class to earlier in the year would be more beneficial to help with overtime.

The class, which takes 12 to 19 weeks depending on experience and was originally scheduled to begin earlier in the year, was pushed back to December for budgetary reasons, Chief Santiago said.

In 2011, the department budgeted almost $3.5 million for overtime, but had already blown through the allotted amount by August, racking up $3.9 million in overtime.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com or 419-724-6054.



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