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Published: Tuesday, 6/27/2006

Toledo police air staffing, crime figures in picket

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Off-duty Toledo police officers staged an informational picket in front of police headquarters downtown yesterday to express concerns about more crime and fewer officers in the city.

Members of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association walked on the sidewalk in front of the Safety Building on Erie Street for about two hours. The picket began with about 20 officers and ended with 35 to 40, said Dan Wagner, union vice president.

"We're not crying wolf. We're speaking the truth," said TPPA President Gregg Harris, who is on leave. "We're sworn to protect. We're concerned about getting to a situation and protecting ourselves without getting killed."

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner responded to the picket during a news conference about cleanup efforts from last week's flooding, saying he "thought it was important to set the record straight."

"Crime is not up. Crime is down, not in all categories. It is down in violent crime," he said. "The figures being pointed to are from 2005, not 2006. There is a gap there."

The mayor said the numbers do not come from the "Finkbeiner-[police Chief Jack] Smith watch." He said the city has 30 police cadets in training and is considering an additional class of officers.

Mr. Wagner, who later met with the mayor about ways to save overtime and other budget issues, said a five-month sample of crime statistics can't be compared.

Mr. Harris said if there are more current numbers, he wants them today.

Sgt. Richard Murphy said the picketing officers won't receive reprimands, and the department did not take their names or photograph them. If the officers have a concern, he said, "they can bring it to the public's attention as they see fit."

In April, TPPA members held an informational picket outside Fifth Third Field. They objected to the elimination of minimum staffing levels, saying it endangers officers and citizens.

Blade staff writer Erica Blake contributed to this report.



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