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Published: Saturday, 11/17/2001

Toledo police use recalls to beef up force

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Toledo police department is doing a voluntary recall of uniformed officers in light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to make sure there are enough crews to patrol the streets and provide additional security at high-risk locations.

“Since Sept. 11, we have been living in a society where there is a great concern on the part of our citizens for their personal safety,” police Chief Mike Navarre said. “We have to ensure we are providing that [safety] to them. We have to make sure there is a significant number of police officers out there.”

He said that even though a number of the department's officers are on military leave, the department still has a responsibility to provide security at sites, such as the water treatment plant and its substations.

The department has recalled officers before. The district station commanders always have been told to keep track of the number of patrol officers for each shift. If the number falls below a “comfort level,” they can recall people.

The concept, which was acknowledged verbally, is now in writing.

Command officers who organize work schedules are looking several days in advance at their staffing levels and calling officers early asking them if they want to work on their day off. The officers don't have to come in, and recalls are not being made if someone suddenly calls off sick.

The minimum number of officers the department would like to have varies per shift and per station. There are four shifts per day at the Scott Park and northwest district stations and five shifts at the Safety Building in downtown Toledo.

From Nov. 5 to Nov. 13, 49 field operations officers agreed to return to work on a day off. That's about five officers a day. Money to pay for their eight-hour overtime shifts will come from the police department's overtime budget, the chief said.

The recall will last until further notice. The police administration is closely monitoring the situation and will make any necessary adjustments.

Gregg Harris, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, is pleased about the recall effort, which started Nov. 2.

“It's definitely a step in the right direction. It's long overdue,” he said.

Mr. Harris said the union will be making sure the staffing levels are high enough. He said the department should try to recall officers when others call in sick.

Chief Navarre said officers calling off sick is unpredictable, and recalling would be too time consuming for their supervisors to find someone on such short notice. However, he said he took into account officers calling off sick when he reviewed the staffing levels.

The police department does not have daily minimum on-duty staffing levels like the fire department. The fire department needs to have at least 103 line-of-duty firefighters working each day. If it can't meet the level, it has to recall firefighters, Deputy Fire Chief Bob Metzger said.

The fire department's newly established bio-chemical response teams - which respond to possible anthrax scares - were costing the city about $3,000 a day in overtime pay. The team's trained firefighters were in addition to the 103 on the line.

Fire Chief Mike Bell said recently the fire department has been at a slightly higher staffing level, averaging between 107 and 110 firefighters each day. The additional firefighters have allowed those trained for the response teams to work on regular pay.

More firefighters trained to be part of the response teams have helped reduce overtime expenses, which are being covered in the fire department's overtime budget.

The response teams have gone to about 170 calls, and the FBI was called in on less than 10 of them. None of the calls have been credible. There have been no confirmed cases of anthrax in Ohio.

Chief Bell said the calls for the teams have slowed and, eventually, there will only be one team as fire departments in outlying areas start handling their own calls.

Chief Bell also leads a regional emergency task force that is coordinating an area-wide disaster response plan. During a half-day safety forum yesterday, he said the task force plans to wrap up by Dec. 15 and make recommendations shortly thereafter.



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