Retirements Slow Pace of Fully Staffing Cleveland Police

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams speaks at an unrelated meeting Wednesday night.
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams speaks at an unrelated meeting Wednesday night. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
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Cleveland plans to add 81 new police officer positions to the budget this year, thanks to the income tax increase voters approved last November. But in order to fully staff those positions, the city will have to hire even more officers to keep up with the pace of retirements.

At a budget presentation at city council on Wednesday, police leaders faced pressure to hire more officers more quickly. Last year, 101 officers left the force, and another 73 are expected to retire this year, according to documents police provided to city council. 

Some council members pushed for more staffing in specialized units, such as those that investigate homicides and narcotics.  

“I’m out there in my neighborhood, and I’m going to these meetings, and I’m hearing from folks. They want to see more police officers in their neighborhood,” said Councilman Michael Polensek, who represents northeast side neighborhoods. “They’re totally fed up with this response when they’re a victim of something.”

Councilman Jeff Johnson, who is running for mayor, said crime scene investigators should respond more quickly after break-ins or when bullets are fired into residents’ homes.

“When they are traumatized by crime, it doesn’t even have to be gunshots, it could be someone coming home and a whole house has been broken into and ransacked, at a minimum, we have to tell them we care enough to try to find evidence to try to find the perpetrator,” Johnson said.

Police Chief Calvin Williams said there are currently about 1,478 officers on the force. He said he plans to get up to the budgeted 1,601 by the end of next year, but that he’d like to see as many as 1,700 in five years.

“But there’s a process for onboarding officers that has to be in this entire equation,” Williams said. “And again, if we had the money to hire 300 officers tomorrow, we could not hire that many officers in that short a time period.”

Public Safety Director Michael McGrath said the Ohio Highway Patrol training academy in Columbus limits class sizes to 50 cadets.

Williams said a cadet class is scheduled to graduate in April, another class of officers will be ready in May and a third class is planned to begin in the summer. 

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