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Published: 4/24/2009

130 of 150 Toledo police layoffs to come from patrol ranks

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Eighteen special Toledo police units - including the gang task force and the mounted patrol - will be eliminated or downsized in an effort to replace 130 patrol officers who are to be laid off next week because of a $20.7 million budget shortfall.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner summed up the need to lay off police yesterday during an hour-long speech to the East Toledo Club.

"We have no choice," Mayor Finkbeiner said.

The city notified 150 police officers they would be laid off on May 1. The layoffs are among 242 furloughs of city workers ordered by Mr. Finkbeiner because city tax revenues have plummeted along with the domestic auto industry and the national economy.

According to a plan released by the mayor yesterday after The Blade threatened to file a public records lawsuit if it were not made public, 130 of the 150 layoffs will come from patrol ranks and 20 will be command officers.

To make up for the loss of officers on street patrols, Chief Mike Navarre has recommended moving 75 officers from special units to street duty.

"The loss of 150 officers on May 1 has required a restructuring of the police department," Chief Navarre said.

"Every effort will be made to continue our success in reducing crime as we have done in each of the last three years."

Units that will be abolished, according to Chief Navarre's plan, include the gang task force, the mounted patrol, the school resource officers, and the officer assigned as sergeant-at-arms for Toledo City Council, although he still would attend council meetings.

Units that will be downsized include the detective bureau, vice, and the SWAT team.

Under the plan, the department's SWAT unit will lose six patrol officers and two sergeants through layoff and three officers will be reassigned - leaving one lieutenant, two sergeants, and 10 police officers.

Investigative services will lose a sergeant to layoff and 21 detec-tives and two sergeants will be reassigned to street duty. Remaining will be a captain, two lieutenants, seven sergeants, and 25 detectives.

The community services unit will be reduced from 12 to 3.

Michael Dearth, chairman of the Toledo Neighborhood Block Watch Program, was disappointed with the plan.

"I think it's a huge blow to Block Watch and a huge blow to the city," he said. "I am in a tough position to explain to folks who want to start a new Block Watch exactly what the mechanism for interfacing with the police department will be."

Mr. Dearth said the near-total reduction of the community services unit would hinder the police work citywide.

"These are all proactive elements that are designed to get ahead of crime and we are going to be totally in a reactive mode now - going back to when the police drove around waiting for crime to happen," he said.

Toledo already has the lowest police staffing level of Ohio's largest cities at 2.1 officers per 1,000 residents. After the layoffs, that will fall to 1.6 officers per 1,000 residents.

Mayor Finkbeiner, in a written statement, implored Toledo City Council to approve his ideas to collect more cash from Toledoans and for city unions to accept concessions "to greatly reduce the announced number of layoffs."

"I do not wish to lay off any member of our safety forces or other city personnel that provide service to our citizens. Yet, I must take this action in order to balance a $20 million deficit that is growing by $500,000 each week," the mayor wrote. "To City Council and the members of our unions: The power is in our hands. I again appeal to you to join with us to reduce the number of layoffs through passing our entire balanced budget plan."

Mr. Finkbeiner said council should have approved his plan to increase the city's monthly trash fee and his proposal to collect more income taxes from Toledoans who work outside the city.

He also sought approval from council to slash most city salaries by 10 percent and the percentage paid toward employees' pension plans outside of ongoing negotiations with the police and fire unions.

Negotiations between the city and the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association have broken down with a fact finder called in to assist.

The Toledo Police Command Officers' Association is hoping to stop the city from laying off 20 command officers by requesting a Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge for a temporary restraining order.

According to a motion filed just before noon yesterday, the announced layoffs would violate the union's contract. The motion was continued to Monday.

City Law Director Adams Loukx declined to comment yesterday while leaving the courthouse except to say he needed time to review the union's motion.

The union claimed in its complaint that the city violated its contract when the city sent layoff notices to about 20 command officers that would go into effect May 1. A subsequent grievance was filed and now union officials claim that the city cannot proceed until an arbitrator is able to decide the issue.

According to the command officers' current contract, the city must at all times maintain manning levels of 11 captains, 32 lieutenants, 92 sergeant and one police secretary for a total of 136 command officers, the complaint stated.

The contract also states that the city may not reduce the number of command officers through layoffs until a "10 percent reduction in the authorized strength through layoff and/or attrition for purposes of layoff has occurred below the rank of sergeant."

Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, could not be reached for comment last night.

Last week, Mr. Wagner said Mayor Finkbeiner's goal is to break the union.

"The mayor's trying to send a message: Concede to my concessions or you're going to be without a job," Mr. Wagner said.

Staff writer Erica Blake contributed to this report.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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