Two unions representing Toledo police patrolmen and officers endorsed Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz for mayor Thursday.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz, an unendorsed Democrat, is facing incumbent endorsed Democratic Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson in the election Nov. 7. Early voting began on Wednesday and continues through Nov. 6.
The candidate stood outside the Toledo Safety Building with representatives of the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association union and the Toledo Police Command Officers Association union, along with the Toledo Firefighters Local 92 union, which endorsed Mr. Kapszukiewicz before the primary election. The Toledo Fire Chiefs Association is not endorsing in this election.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz has called for an increase of police officers on the force from the current level of 603 to 660 at the end of a four-year term. He said the city’s current ratio of 2.1 officers per 1,000 residents has been labeled by the U.S. Department of Justice as “dangerously low.” He said the Justice Department’s recommended ratio is 2.4 officers per 1,000.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz has promised to hire a new class of 40 officers each year. With an expected 25 officers retiring annually, that would increase the size of the department by 15 officers per year.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz said 133 people have been shot this year, including 10 in just the last week. Three of those people shot in the past week died, among them two 18-year-olds in South Toledo.
“We need a sense of urgency to address what is clearly an urgent problem,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said.
He said Toledo needs more community policing, with officers getting out of their cars, building relationships in the community, and walking the streets.
“Right now we simply do not have enough officers to make these things happen,” he said.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz said endorsement by the three unions doesn’t put him under any obligation to them.
“I have an obligation to do what is in the best interests of the city and the citizens of Toledo. I think everyone understands that police officers and firefighters always have the best interests of Toledoans at heart,” the mayor said. “Their endorsement I think goes hand in hand with what my goals are also.”
The mayor negotiates labor contracts with city unions that determine wages and benefits. Those contracts have to be ratified by city council.
Ms. Hicks-Hudson said in a live-streamed forum with The Blade’s editorial board Wednesday that the number of police officers is low, but that she is able to “beef up our ranks” because of the city’s improving budget status.
Ms. Hicks-Hudson’s campaign manager, Sam Melendez, said he was not surprised that the TPPA would endorse the son of a former police officer. Mr. Kapzukiewicz’s father, Walter, is a retired officer.
“Wade’s a status quo, career politician who will say anything to get what he wants. Just like he did to get the firefighters’ endorsement by promising to fire Chief Santiago,” Mr. Melendez said, referring to Fire Chief Luis Santiago. While Local 92 has called for the chief’s firing, Mr. Kapszukiewicz said at the time of the endorsement in July that there was no specific conversation about the chief’s future status.
“The mayor is proud of Toledo’s excellent safety forces. Of course, she will continue to support and work with them when she’s re-elected,” Mr. Melendez said.