CLEVELAND — Some Cleveland business owners and the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association are concerned the city police officer shortage is set to grow even bigger heading into this summer.
James Boyd, who has owned Polished Professionals Barber Shop in Cleveland's Larchmere neighborhood for the past 13 years is concerned if the police department loses any more officers it could hamper effective patrols in his business district. Boyd is hoping the city will increase an officer's starting salary as a way to significantly slow down the number of officers leaving the department.
“It’s always good to see an officer around, it gives you a sense of security," Boyd said. “I just feel like they should be paid rightfully.”
“How are you going to survive, how are you going to support your family, I think they should be paid a significant amount of money. If they’re leaving because of the wages, that’s a serious problem. If money is the issue, we need to find more money, because we need police.”
News 5 obtained Cleveland Police divisional reports which indicated 18 officers left the police force in December, 16 left in January, 23 in February and 28 in March. The reports indicated a significant number of officers who left the force resigned from their jobs.
Jeff Follmer, President of the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association, told News 5 some of those resignations were officers taking jobs with suburban police departments. The reports also showed newly sworn in officers from the 148 cadet classes were also among the resignations. Follmer believes if the officer starting annual pay of $52,000 isn't increased soon, the officer shortage will grow, setting up a potential safety issue.
“The residents aren’t going to get the service they deserve from the police department because there is not enough of us to go around," Follmer said. “You’re going to have dirt bikes going all over the place, people shooting each other all over the place, homicides will be up."
“They’re working double shifts, they're going to be overwhelmed by the summer, and what’s going to happen is there’s going to be more and more officers calling off sick, and that’s going to leave areas not patrolled. Officers aren’t staying past their 25-years anymore, and if these young kids get a job offer somewhere they’re gone.”
Cleveland Councilman and Cleveland Safety Committee Chairman Michael Polensek told News 5 he's pleased Mayor Justin Bibb pledged significant cadet class graduations for Cleveland police and all other safety forces in 2022 during the Mayor's April 13 State of the City address. But Polensek said more must be done to improve officer retention and get the force back up to the 1,640 officers that are in the new city budget.
"Look at the number of officers who are just quitting, resignations, we never saw that in the past," Polensek said. “The Mayor, he’s walked into a mess, and I think he realizes that now."
“You have to force people to work overtime, we have a big problem. Pay is going to have to be dealt with, it’s a troublesome one because in light of this economy."
“We need to have a marketing plan that talks about the benefits of being a police officer. The salary, the benefits, you can retire after 25-years, you have a pension, a decent pension you can live on.”