TPD colleagues: Collins was ‘true professional’Written by Joel Sensenig | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
While many Toledoans recognize D. Michael Collins for his work at One Government Center as mayor and Toledo City Councilman, he started his career on the streets of the city.
Collins was a 26-year veteran of the Toledo Police Department (TPD), a career he began in 1973. He served on the vice squad, metro drug unit and crimes against persons unit.
From 1988 through his retirement in 1999, Collins served as president of the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association (TPPA). He received numerous letters of recognition for excellence in police service during his career in law enforcement, and in 1997 was awarded TPD’s Professional Service Award.
His former partner, Ron Scanlon, is a retired TPD detective who played a role getting Collins onto the vice squad.
“He was known to be a very intelligent patrol officer,” Scanlon said. “Some of the guys thought he was kind of nerdy and wouldn’t work out, but I thought just the opposite and went to bat for him. … He grew his hair out a little bit, grew a beard and lo and behold, turned out to be one of the best investigators we had in the entire unit.”
The two also worked with another partner, John Tharp, who is now Lucas County Sheriff.
Together, they made a lot of arrests for liquor violations, illegal gambling, prostitution and drugs, Scanlon said.
“He was a true professional in every sense of the word,” Scanlon said, fighting back tears as he reflected on those years. “He was very thorough. … He wouldn’t do a search warrant just based on a whim or a Crime Stopper [report] without doing surveillance and having good intelligence.”
As an undercover officer, protecting his informants was very important to Collins, Scanlon said.
“One thing he never did was turn on an informant,” he said. “They trusted him. Mike learned early that if he burned an informant, the word gets out on the streets. Without informants, you’re basically useless. You can’t do anything. … In a city the size of Toledo, sooner or later you’re known. That’s why the more informants you have, the more information you can get.”
As devoted to his job as Collins was, he was also dedicated to his family, Scanlon said. He said they would often feel guilty because of all the hours they would spend doing surveillance, making arrests and then subsequent time in court at hearings and trials — all time spent away from their families.
“One thing that bothered Mike was missing a lot of time with the kids,” Scanlon said. “But he did everything he could do to spend time with them and show them how much he loved them. He was just a great individual police officer and family man. … I get broken up every time I think about it. I can’t believe it.”
Oregon Police Chief Mike Navarre began his career with TPD as a road patrol officer in 1977, when Collins was on the vice squad. While Navarre would occasionally see Collins during that time, the two didn’t start working closely together until Collins became president of TPPA.
Collins represented officers in most of the disciplinary hearings involving police, and Navarre was a lieutenant in internal affairs. As a result, the two worked together on a daily basis.
“He was very passionate about his duties,” Navarre said. “He didn’t take that representation lightly and he put in a lot of time and was very conscientious. He did his due diligence to make sure the officers he represented got the very best he could offer.”
Navarre said working with Collins was a joy, although not always easy.
“It was a pleasure working with him because he was such an honorable person,” Navarre said. “He was always candid. He didn’t play the games that some people like to play, and we got things done. We had some spirited disagreements, but we always respected each other’s opinion. Sometimes I would take a position that Mike disagreed with. He would tell me why, and oftentimes he was able to convince me that I was wrong. … The police department was always in his best interest. He knew when to fight, he knew when not to fight. He didn’t waste money on going after fights that he couldn’t win.”
Navarre said Collins’ greatest accomplishment as TPPA president was likely getting a union hall built at 1947 Franklin Ave.
No matter which direction Collins was heading, he made it a point to always drive past the TPPA Hall, his Chief of Staff Robert Reinbolt said.
“We could have been headed to the opposite end of the city, but he’d find a way to say, ‘Well, we’ve got to drive this way to get to wherever we’re going,’” Reinbolt said.
Navarre said shortly after he became TPD chief in 1998, he neglected to attend the funerals of a couple of former officers, for which he took some heat from police retirees. He came to learn attending funerals was one of the most important functions of the chief of police.
“The thing that I noticed during the years is Michael Collins was always there. Always there,” he said. “That was one thing I could always count on was him being there. … He was always there for those funerals, so you can bet that I’ll be there for his.”
The two stayed in touch after Navarre’s departure from TPD in 2011, and into Collins’ first year as mayor.
“I think he was loving it,” Navarre said of Collins’ role as mayor. “One of his greatest strengths is thriving during times of controversy and handling different crises. He was always positive, always smiling, jovial. I think he was just having the time of his life.”
When George Kral was sworn in as the new Toledo Police Chief last month, Collins said he first noticed Kral’s character and potential in the late 1980s during a disciplinary hearing at which both testified.
At least one interaction between the two did not go as Kral would have liked.
“My biggest memory of him is when I was a newly appointed sergeant and he was president of the patrolman’s association,” Kral said. Kral had to write up a patrolman for an infraction. The case went to a chief’s hearing, where Kral went up against Collins on the matter.
It didn’t go well for Kral.
“Let’s just say I was soundly defeated by him in the chief’s hearing. Up to the day he passed away, when we would be in a lighter moment, he would bring it up: ‘Remember the time, George, when I kicked your butt in a chief’s hearing?’ We had a laugh over it,” Kral said. “He was laughing more than me.”
The police chief said the lighthearted exchange was indicative of his time with Collins.
“For as serious as he was, he had a fantastic sense of humor,” Kral said. “You had to really know him to understand his sense of humor. … He was incredibly intelligent. I didn’t know a lot of people who were smarter than him. … He did his homework on everything and [when he asked a question] he knew it just as well if not better than the person he was asking.”
Kral was only able to work under Collins’ administration for one month.
“I really wanted an opportunity to work with him for his entire term,” Kral said. “I’m really sad I don’t get the opportunity to work with him more.”