FOSTORIA - Reacting to a jump in crime and tight staffing in the city's police department, Mayor John Davoli has proposed using part-time auxiliary officers to bolster regular patrols.
The mayor suggested the idea at a Fostoria City Council meeting Tuesday night. He said he envisioned using reserve officers for road and foot patrols, dispatch work, and special details.
Mr. Davoli pointed to a string of 10 suspected arsons in the area around East Center and Poplar streets since mid-June.
"I think a lot of the neighbors here would like to see foot patrols in this area," he said Wednesday, standing in front of a house on East Center that had been set afire earlier that afternoon.
He said auxiliary officers would be asked to commit at least 16 hours a month to the program. "We'd use them on a very limited basis," he said.
While introducing the idea to council members, the mayor also sparked controversy with some pointed remarks about the performance of some police
employees he said are not pulling their weight.
"We plan to find out who the slackers are and give them a good kick in the rear," Mr. Davoli told council.
The head of the union that represents the city's police patrol officers objected to the mayor's statement, arguing that the department is doing the best it can with its depleted staff.
"For him to make these comments, I don't believe it's fair or accurate," said Officer Scott Hofacker, president of the Fostoria chapter of the Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. "I think instead of finger-pointing, he ought to roll up his sleeves and work with the people in the city."
Interviewed Wednesday at the fire scene, Mr. Davoli said he thinks the city has "a very fine police department" but that he wants to review department statistics from the last two years to make sure all officers are being as productive as possible.
Officer Hofacker said the police force is down from 20 patrol officers to 13 because of layoffs, resignations, and medical absences. At the same time, the remaining officers are increasingly busy because of rising crime, he said.
"We've got overtime that's going through the roof " Officer Hofacker said.
The mayor, however, said the department's total strength is 24, including command officers, down from a peak number of 28. "That's only four officers," he said. "The numbers are not that bad."
As for the mayor's proposal to bring in auxiliary officers, Officer Hofacker said the union's contract with the city would not allow that, though the two sides are expected to begin negotiating a new pact this fall.
Instead of incurring the expense of training and outfitting auxiliary officers, the city should add full-time patrolmen to restore the department's street strength, Officer Hofacker said.
"Our police force can handle the crime if it's fully staffed," he said.
Mr. Davoli said he would wait until the one officer remaining on layoff is recalled before pushing forward with an auxiliary force. He also said the union should reconsider its stance.
"They see it as an invasion into their territory, but I see it as a complement to our police force," he said.
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