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Published: Friday, 10/23/2009

Finkbeiner ends police layoffs; last 14 officers to return to work

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner Thursday abruptly ended the layoff of Toledo police officers that has symbolized the city's budget paralysis for much of 2009.

Mr. Finkbeiner said he was recalling the 14 officers remaining out of work since the layoff of 75 officers May 1, effective today.

The mayor said the decision was made Wednesday based on a set of salary savings adding up to about $160,000, the amount needed to pay the officers for the remainder of the year.

He also said that he was spurred by complaints of cases of youths and others congregating in neighborhoods in the central city and Rogers High School areas.

The decision was a turnabout for the mayor, who has said previously he had no plan for recalling the officers. Mr. Finkbeiner said he was persuaded by his chief of staff, Bob Reinbolt, after the idea was put in motion in a letter last week from Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association.

In the letter, Mr. Wagner said the officers were being recruited by other jurisdictions and the city stood to lose its $80,000 investment in their training. He also said Mr. Finkbeiner would take the blame for a historically low number of police in Toledo.

"I was concerned we were going to lose those guys," Mr. Wagner said.

During the news conference, Mr. Finkbeiner thanked Mr. Wagner for his patience in restoring the laid-off police officers, telling him, "I know they were hurting .... and I appreciate the fact that you guys knew I was hurting. ... It wasn't fun, it wasn't pleasant, but it's being done all across America."

He also said the staffing won't be able to be maintained in 2010 without revenue enhancements.

He has advocated raising the trash fee and reducing a tax credit enjoyed by residents who work outside the city, but the proposals have been blocked by city council.

The cost of bringing back the officers is to be offset by about a dozen retirements of police officers that had not been anticipated, on top of the 30 anticipated retirements, as well as the savings from 13 officers on military leave.

The recalls will bring the police force to a strength of 604.

Police Chief Mike Navarre and the mayor also said they are tentatively budgeting to hire a police class of up to 33 officers around July, although that decision will be made by the next mayor and city council. Mr. Navarre said the class will come from the same group of 33 who were to be hired last year but whose class was at first postponed and then canceled.

The chief said provisions are being made in the proposed 2010 budget to begin the nearly one-year process of creating a new test and list of eligible recruits, with the potential to hire a new class before the end of that year.

Both of the candidates seeking to replace Mr. Finkbeiner, independent Mike Bell and Democrat Keith Wilkowski, have said that one of the first things they would do is bring back the laid-off police officers.

Mr. Reinbolt said that played a part in the administration's decision.

"It was the right thing to do," he said.

Mr. Finkbeiner 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.

In early August, the city recalled another 31 laid-off police officers with funding from a federal grant. 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. An additional officer was recalled when one officer took a disability leave.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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