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Published: Sunday, 8/2/2009

31 Toledo officers to be recalled this week

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo will recall 31 laid-off police officers Wednesday with funding from a federal grant, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner announced Saturday.

The grant, from the Justice Department's COPS Hiring Recovery Program, is worth $7.1 million over three years. It requires the city to maintain a minimum police manning level of 564 sworn officers for four years.

The Justice Department notified the city Tuesday that it had been approved for the grant, but the mayor held off its acceptance until he had a better understanding of the requirements the federal money imposed.

Specifically, he wanted to know what minimum manning level would be required and how long it would be in effect, he said at a news conference outside the Safety Building, where he appeared with top city officials and council members.

On Friday afternoon, the Justice Department answered his questions, and Mayor Finkbeiner was satisfied.

"Both conditions have been thoroughly reviewed, and we determined that the city will accept the terms of the grant," he said.

"As mayor of this city, I am responsible for making sound fiscal judgments on issues that are presented to me. In the current revenue shortfall in which we find ourselves, I must look proactively at the financial stability of the city."

Police Chief Mike Navarre said the 31 recalled officers were the equivalent of a new police class.

"It's certainly going to make a difference," Chief Navarre said.

The chief said the recalls will enable him to add detectives to the police department's investigative services, where crimes against property have been given short shrift because of a lack of personnel.

Toledo laid off 75 police officers May 1 in an effort to close a $12.5 million budget deficit. The city temporarily recalled 29 of them July 1 with a federal Justice Assistance Grant, which funds the positions through the end of the year.

By accepting the COPS grant, the city, which still faces an $8.6 million spending gap, is committing itself to retaining those officers beyond 2009. Money for this would come from cuts or transfers in other city operations and revenue enhancements, Chief Navarre said.

City Council has set aside $3.9 million in 2009 capital improvement funding in anticipation of voters' approval next month of Issue 1, the "Safety First Plan," which would change the allocation of revenue from the payroll tax to allow more to be spent on police and fire services.

At the news conference, City Council President Joe McNamara said adoption of Issue 1 was important to Toledo's public safety.

"We're not out of the woods yet," he said.

Mr. Finkbeiner noted that Toledo's COPS award is well below the $34.6 million the city requested in federal money to rehire all 75 laid-off officers and hire an additional 75. He said Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland received enough money for 50 officers and that Toledo had a good case for getting more.

Still, he said, "All in all, I think the federal government has done an admirable job for cities. We will pursue additional stimulus money," with the goal of recalling the 15 officers who remain on layoff status.

Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, who has had differences with the mayor in recent months, thanked him yesterday for making the recalls possible. In return, Mr. Finkbeiner thanked Mr. Wagner and the leadership at the police department.

Contact Carl Ryan at

carlryan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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