News 11's Jonathan Walsh filed this report on Monday.
To protect and serve, that's the mission of police officers. But a News 11 investigation has revealed some policies within the Toledo Police Department (TPD) are allowing officers to sit and serve -- for years at a time.
Those are the officers who've been hurt on or off duty and are assigned to less physical work --records, data entry, desk work, for example.
You might be surprised to find out just how long the system has allowed some officers to stay on light duty -- and what they're paid. Is it a fair system? You decide.
Administrators for the TPD tell News 11 the light duty list is usually anywhere from 10 to 40 officers; it can fluctuate daily.
A list recently provided to us by the City of Toledo shows 34 officers. Nine of the officers have been on light duty for one to two years, three for two to three years, one for seven years and there's even an officer who's been on light duty for 12 years.
"It's not common," to have officers on light duty for several years, says Deputy Police Chief Mike Murphy, who says a physician has to sign off on the officer's health saying he or she is not fit for regular duty. Then that officer can be assigned to areas like the tow lot or record keeping until he or she is back in good health.
The contractual language is very straightforward. It preserves the officer's ability to work in the department until he or she returns to full duty. "If he can't return to full duty, so be it, he'll be on it until he retires," says Dan Wagoner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolmen's Union.
The contract states that, in terms of pay, there's no difference between light duty and those in the line of fire.
Over the years, the City of Toledo placed civilians in what would be considered light duty jobs -- the 9-1-1 communications office. A top civilian is paid a little more than $18 an hour. An officer with 10 years of experience gets close to $26 to $50 an hour -- more than $8 an hour difference and more than that with top veteran officers.
Wagoner says he knows of at least one police department that differentiates between light duty and regular duty, but the union's current contract doesn't allow it -- and he says it shouldn't.
"You may not see an officer be as active as they should if he's concerned about being injured and keeping his full rate of pay," Wagoner says. Wagoner and TPD administration say light duty done by an injured officer helps put an able-bodied officer out on the streets.
Public Safety Committee Vice-chair and Finance and Budget Chair George Sarantou agrees that getting some productivity out of injured officers is better than sending them home to collect a check. He also says the city is facing another $8 million in cuts from the budget, and negotiations with police unions are coming up later this year.
Sarantou says lowering the pay, "would provide an incentive and we will have to look at that in terms of making changes, but again those regulations are decided in collective bargaining."
Murphy does say Chief Mike Navarre addressed some issues last year with three officers who were injured off the job and had gone beyond the 90 days contractually allowed for off-duty injuries. Navarre told them they had to take sick time.
Wagoner said, "Very few people, I think, have off-duty injuries or illnesses that have been over a year."
But our list showed half of the officers on light duty for one or more years were hurt off-duty.
We were assured that with the contract negotiations coming up, the situation will be looked at again.