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Roger White’s desk was the cleanest Thursday it had been in 21 years.
The top was still littered with books and paperwork, hats, a box of ammunition. Some of it will find its way to a garbage can, some will stay, and some Officer White will take with him today when he leaves his Scott Park District Station office for the last time as a sworn city officer.
“I’m at that point and it’s time to go,” said Officer White, a 36-year veteran of the Toledo Police Department.
For most of his career, Officer White has been charged with making sure the city’s police officers know how to handle life-or-death situations.
As the department’s armorer, he has trained hundreds of men and women how to properly use their firearms and the best-practice tactics to keep them safe should they ever be involved in a gun battle on the streets.
“That’s why it’s so important to have people like Roger, it’s so important to have good people because this is what saves officers' lives, citizens’ lives. Proper training and proper technique,” Sgt. Joe Heffernan said.
That responsibility now shifts onto the shoulders of Bill Michalski, another department veteran who has spent the past 19 years of his career as an officer inside Toledo Public Schools, most recently at Waite High School.
“I do miss the people and the kids, but it was time for me to do something else,” Officer Michalski said. “I’m trying to learn as much as I can from Officer White.”
The two have worked together for years — Officer Michalski has been a part-time firearms instructor for more than a decade — but the two have only had about three weeks together for transitional training.
Because Officer Michalski, a 25-year department veteran, has firearms training certification, much of what he’s absorbing from Officer White is how the range ticks and the armory operates. There’s also coordinating range time for in-service training and the current academy class, rifle, and Special Weapons and Tactics training, and making sure to include on the schedule the outside agencies that use Toledo’s range.
The armory is also responsible for maintaining officers’ firearms.
“I'm trying to learn multiple skill sets simultaneously,” Officer Michalski said. “Teaching, I’ve done that before, but range maintenance and armorer’s duties, I’ve done that before, but I still have quite a bit to learn.”
He has Officer White’s phone number handy, just in case.
“Might be retiree day every day,” Officer Michalski offered.
“No it won’t,” Officer White said.
Officer White joined the Toledo police department in 1977 — he was in the same class with a young Derrick Diggs, who would go on to become the department’s chief, before he recently retired.
As rookies, Officers White and Diggs were partners on two occasions — first a wagon crew on the city’s east side and then running an overnight shift out of the inner city in the areas of Bancroft Street and Franklin Avenue.
Officer White spent five years as a patrol officer until a motorcycle accident put him on light duty for a year in communications.
When the department started its SWAT team, Officer White was recruited for the unit and there received his firearms training certification.
In 1992, he put in for a full-time position at the range and armory and has been there since.
“It’s a way of life for me,” Officer White said. “It’s that professionalism of carrying a gun and responsibility involved in it and trying to pass that on.”
One of the lessons Officer White has to pass on to officers is how to react if they’re up against someone who, for whatever reason, wants them dead.
“When you have somebody that does get in a confrontation and they come back and say, ‘You know, I remembered what you said,’ that means a lot,” Officer White said. “They all get the training, and if they get into a gun fight then they come back and they say ‘I remember what you said and it made a difference,’ that's a lot. What more can you ask for?”