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For the next 26 weeks, Jamal Owens is going to be one very busy man.
Just a few days ago, he resigned from his job as a sergeant with the Wood County Sheriff's Office. At home, he has two sons, Denzel Malachi and Xavier, who are 3 weeks and 2 years old, respectively.
His wife, Beth, is going to have to put up with his studying and rigorous schedule as he works his way through the Toledo police academy.
"I love my wife, I love my wife," Mr. Owens, 32, said. "She's been a godsend."
Mr. Owens is one of 42 trainees who on Tuesday had their first day of training at the academy.
"This is where I'm supposed to be," he said.
The trainees are expected to graduate in March, 2013.
Toledo Police Chief Derrick Diggs, who first addressed the recruits privately, said the new officers are "desperately needed."
The department went years without hiring a police class and in the last year and a half, has been trying to play catch-up and bolster the ranks amid retirements and a gap in hiring.
Toledo police Sgt. Joe Heffernan said the department has about 575 sworn officers.
In the next several days, officers who graduated from the academy in May will finish a four-month field-officer training program that kicks off their year of probation.
During the field training, each new officer works with a veteran officer on various shifts to learn more about operations at the street level.
The department is also in a recruiting drive and intends to offer a civil service exam Dec. 1.
Sergeant Heffernan said department officials hope to attract enough candidates to create at least three classes, including one scheduled to start in the fall of 2013 with 75 trainees.
The hiring of new officers will help reduce department overtime costs, Chief Diggs said.
It is also part of the chief's "zero-tolerance" policy he's touted since being chosen to lead the department almost a year ago.
Mr. Owens, who has lived his entire life in Toledo, said "it's frustrating seeing all the shootings," but that is part of what motivates him to want to be an officer.
Marquitta Bey, 33, of Toledo said she's looking forward to joining the department to help others.
"I'm from Toledo, and I take pride in being here," she said. "I've always wanted to help people … and this is one way I can give back to the community that helped raise me."
More information about the department’s recruitment drive is available at www.toledopolice.com.
Contact Taylor Dungjen at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @tdungjen_Blade.