Aug 3, 2023 - News

Cleveland won't come close to hiring budgeted police officers in 2023

Illustration of a police uniform standing with no person inside it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Cleveland will come nowhere close to hiring the 180 new police officers that City Council budgeted for 2023.

  • That was one of the key takeaways yesterday at a heated safety committee meeting, organized by Collinwood councilman Mike Polensek in the wake of several high-profile incidents of violence.

What they're saying: "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired of seeing the violence impacting our neighborhoods," Polensek said, noting that he and his colleagues have been besieged by constituent complaints all summer.

The other side: Safety director Karrie Howard and Police Chief Wayne Drummond pushed back on the notion that the administration didn't have a plan for addressing rising crime.

  • Drummond noted the recent arrests of 12 juveniles who viciously attacked a man at a gas station at East 140th Street and St. Clair Avenue before firing guns at passing cars.
  • Howard touted Mayor Justin Bibb's RISE Initiative, a new holistic public safety strategy that includes technology-based solutions (an expanded ShotSpotter program and an integrated camera system), regional collaboration, and marketing to improve police recruitment.

Reality check: Howard stressed that low recruitment has plagued police departments nationwide and said Cleveland would not sacrifice quality for quantity.

By the numbers: In the three academy classes completed this year, Cleveland has graduated only 36 cadets.

  • Howard said he's hopeful that an October class will include a substantially larger number if the division can secure a raise for cadets, who currently make $15 per hour while in the academy.
  • "Young people care about that wage more than they do about the medical and dental benefits," he said.

Meanwhile: In an impassioned monologue, councilman Charles Slife took aim at the state for making Ohio State Highway Patrol personnel and resources available to help Cleveland address symptoms of problems he believes the state created, rather than eliminate the root cause.

  • He referenced the proliferation of guns in the wake of permitless carry legislation last year and the elimination of mandatory front license plates, which Slife said makes it harder for police to track down the skyrocketing number of stolen vehicles.
  • Slife requested $36 million annually from Ohio's rainy day fund to provide a $20,000 raise to Cleveland police officers.

What's next: A public safety summit on Aug. 23 will tackle recruitment and retention of local police.


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