Cleveland police hiring as many officers as possible, but some say it won't help community relations

Posted at 7:28 AM, Feb 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-27 13:50:23-05

While Cleveland Chief of Police Calvin Williams told the City Council the Division of Police is hiring officers as quickly as they possibly can, some elected leaders are still saying the Ohio State Highway Patrol is needed to keep Cleveland's streets safe.

A shootout in the middle of the day in December was the last straw for State Representative Bill Patmon, prompting him to send a letter to Governor Kasich asking for help in Cleveland. Councilman Michael Polensek had already sent a letter to Mayor Frank Jackson with a similar request just a few weeks before.

After looking over the proposed police budget for 2018, Councilman Polensek says the department can't beef up as much as it says it will. 

"I gotta tell you, the numbers are not there," said Councilman Polensek.

Eventually, the police department wants to have 1,601, but that's far off from the 1,166 they ended up with in 2017.

The 2018 budget calls for 250 trainee officers, bringing the projected police force to nearly 1300 for 2018.

"Whether that be 250, 260, or 180, the goal is to hire as many police officers as possible," said Chief Williams.

But even just 250 new faces is a tall task.

A string of training classes over the next year can start getting more than 200 officers ready, roughly 60 per cadet class, but Chief Williams says they expect to lose about 10% of their recruits during the nearly year-long process.

Then, there are retirements, where the Department expects about 75 officers leave. That would be down from the last two years, when 101 and 91 officers have left the force, making it even harder to replenish the ranks.

"You said you didn't think we'd make the number and I said our goal is to prove you wrong," said Chief Williams to the City Council. "And our goal is still to prove you wrong."

Councilman Polensek says this proves the state agencies need to help.

"We need help, we have to reach out to the highway patrol, the county to augment the Cleveland Police Department until you can ramp up your cadets," said Councilman Polensek.

"It's not going to give us our 1,601 number," said Chief Williams, referring to the hiring plan for the next year. "But it's going to give us a net as far as attrition is concerned."

Residents have said they think more police presence would only make a bad relationship between the community and police even worse. 

Councilman Polensek says the Police Department can't do the kind of community outreach they need to do until they get their staffing numbers back on track.