Police, fire unions denounce Martinez after Bell endorsement

Mayor Mike Bell, left, and Toledo City Council member Adam Martinez in October, 2012.
Mayor Mike Bell, left, and Toledo City Council member Adam Martinez in October, 2012.

The leaders of Toledo's police patrolmen and firefighters rank and file unions today joined the state Democratic party in denouncing Toledo City Council candidate Adam Martinez - a Democratic-endorsed incumbent – because of his negative comments about mayoral candidate D. Michael Collins and endorsement of Mayor Mike Bell.

Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association, blasted Mr. Martinez. The leaders of Toledo Firefighters Local 92 revoked its endorsement of Mr. Martinez and asked for him to return a $250 campaign donation.

The Ohio Democratic Party endorsed Mr. Collins over Mayor Bell even though both are political independents. The police and firefighters unions also endorsed Mr. Collins, although the Toledo Fire Chiefs Association union has endorsed Mayor Bell.

RELATED ARTICLE: Councilman backs Bell, enrages own party

On Thursday, Mr. Martinez announced his endorsement of Mayor Bell – the incumbent targeted this election year by the vast majority of labor and the Ohio Democratic Party because of his support of “Right to Work” laws and also Senate Bill 5 in 2011, a state law that would have limited the bargaining rights of public employees but was overturned by referendum.

In doing so, Mr. Martinez also criticized Mr. Collins for statements about police racial profiling early in the campaign and also publicly stating that the city of Toledo never had a $48 million deficit in 2010.

“While there may not be many reported cases of racial profiling within our police department, it is still a very real concern to many in our community that should not be shamelessly dismissed,” Mr. Martinez said Thursday, when he also stated that while Mr. Collins and some others protest the fact there was a large deficit. "I assure you, there was.”

Mr. Wagner called Mr. Martinez's comments false.

“Let it be clear that neither the TPPA nor the professional men and women who comprise its membership in any way endorse or engage in such actions,” Mr. Wagner said.

The police union president said a decade-old policy voluntarily implemented by officers mandates records of police stops include the race and gender of the individual stopped.

“This directive stands today and serves as a tool to identify any officer who may be utilizing race for a basis of his law enforcement activities,” Mr. Wagner said. “There has never been an officer accused of or disciplined for engaging in racial profiling. We acknowledge that there may be a common mistrust of police officers within the community but instead of attempting to bridge this disconnect, Councilman Martinez only added fuel to the fire with his unfounded accusation.”

City Spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei and police department spokesman Sgt. Joe Heffernan could not be immediately reached to verify Mr. Wagner's statements about any Toledo police officers having never been accused of or disciplined for racial profiling.

Dan Desmond, vice president of Local 92, said Mr. Martinez raised “an inflammatory and frivolous” issue for a “crass appeal to the electorate.”

Mr. Martinez today said he believed Mr. Collins is “insensitive to racial issues.” He came to that conclusion based on Mr. Collins' statements during public forums and how he responded to a question about racial profiling before the Sept. 10 primary.

Mayor Bell and Mr. Collins have clashed repeatedly on the question of whether Toledo police officers engage in racial profiling. Mr. Collins said at a forum sponsored by the Toledo chapter of the NAACP earlier in the campaign that based on a report from the city police department he did not believe racial profiling existed. He has turned the question back at Mr. Bell, asking several times since then if the report was a lie.

During a forum last month, the mayor said: “We do have people that racial profile. ... They’re human, they do things.”

Regarding the police and fire unions, Mr. Martinez said their statements today were unfortunate.

“I am still very supportive of unions and because we don't have an endorsed Democratic mayoral candidate, I endorsed someone who I believe most fits Democratic values and that is Mayor Mike Bell, in the terms of racial equality and protecting the most vulnerable in our community.”

Mr. Martinez said he strongly disagrees with Mayor Bell regarding union issues.

“I am still against Right to Work and I was against Senate Bill 5,” he said.

Mr. Martinez said he is legally prohibited from returning a campaign donation.