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Published: Tuesday, 6/26/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

City to get $1.875M to hire 15 officers

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Toledo Police Department is to receive federal funds that will subsidize most of the salaries and benefits for 15 new police officers for three years.

The grant, worth $1.875 million, the most awarded to any city in the state, requires that the new hires be military veterans who have served 180 days since Sept. 11, 2001.

"I would say it's good news for veterans who want to be police officers," Sgt. Joe Heffernan said.

"Any time we can get any extra help to hire officers, that's a very good thing for the city of Toledo. It's not a secret we're in need of officers. Generally, the officers coming out of the military have some experiences that fit in very well with police work."

Sergeant Heffernan said the department applied for the grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, which is providing more than $111 million to 220 agencies across the country.

According to the Department of Justice, agencies were selected to receive funds based on an agreement to hire veterans, financial need, and local crime rates.

Agencies were also selected based on strategies to reduce homicide rates and gun violence.

The Toledo Police Department has about 575 sworn officers. This number includes supervisors who are not on the street.

The department is going through an interview process to build a class of 40 recruits to start at the police academy in September.

It's unclear at this point if the department will decide to hire an additional 15 officers or if it will use the grant money to help pay for the upcoming class.

It could hire the military veterans and make them part of the class that's already planned.

"We budgeted for a class of 40 in this year's budget and I haven't talked to the finance department yet," said Shirley Green, director of public safety. "Chief [Derrick] Diggs and I haven't talked about how we're going to use this grant. We budgeted for 40 officers, so if we have funding for an additional [15], that would be great."

The city of Akron received a $1.5 million grant to hire 12 officers and the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office received $1 million to hire eight deputies.

Nine other departments across the state will receive money to hire one to seven officers per department.

Also in northwest Ohio, the Republic Police Department in Seneca County will receive $125,000 from the same Department of Justice COPS program to save the position of a law enforcement officer. The funding will support 75 percent of the cost of three years of the officer's salary and fringe benefits.

Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, said Toledo should use the money to hire more officers instead of helping to pay for the current class.

"The class is budgeted for, the money is in the budget, so here's the perfect opportunity to get ourselves ahead of the game and put us in a position to fight crime," Mr. Wagner said.

He said the department has recently hired military veterans and has heard positive reviews from field training officers during the training period.

"The field training officers have been highly complimentary of their tactical skills on the street," Mr. Wagner said. "That's something you have to take time to teach someone. … These guys have been very sound in their tactics."

Data released this month by the FBI showed that Toledo was one of a few cities that bucked a national trend and experienced an increase in crime, Mr. Wagner said.

And last week, with three homicides and eight nonfatal shootings in the city, Chief Diggs announced he would put officers on a special assignment, working in neighborhoods known to have gang activity.

Mr. Wagner said that with that rash of violence, 12 officers have been added to each shift, working on overtime in hopes of quelling violence in the city.

"If you're willing to do that for one week, you should be willing to do that year-round," Mr. Wagner said, adding that the additional officers will put more presence on the streets.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com, 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @tdungjen_Blade.



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