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In-Depth: Cleveland leaders, police union share officer staffing concerns

In-Depth: CLE leaders, police union share officer staffing concerns
In-Depth: CLE leaders, police union share officer staffing concerns
Posted at 10:30 PM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 23:20:20-04

CLEVELAND — Some Cleveland city leaders and the Cleveland police union are concerned a series of officer retirements in 2021 could leave the police department shorthanded this coming summer.

Cleveland police union President Jeff Follmer told News 5 he believes the police department is up to 130 officers short in meeting the budgeted number approved by the city and said the current police recruitment class has only had 35 candidates.

Follmer said more recruits are needed to make up for a large number of anticipated retirements on the way this year.

“We’ve had about 65 officers retire already, we’re finding that officers don’t want to stay around much more than 25-years," Follmer said.

"We’re going into the summer, officers are going to get tired, they’re going to get burned out and it’s not going to be healthy and we’re just short.”

“You see these numbers go down, you see the retirements come in, you see how low. One hundred to 130 people, that’s a lot of officers, I mean that’s a district almost.”

“The administration has to answer to this, we need these numbers to keep up to our budgeted list.”

Cleveland Councilman Michael Polensek told News 5 the city is accepting applications for officers through May 16 but said Cleveland must bolster its recruitment effort if it's to keep up with a growing number of retirements.

“Recruiting is a big problem, not only in the City of Cleveland but nationally," Polensek said.

"We’re seeing what’s happening nationally, large numbers of rank and file are submitting their papers for retirement, or are applying for suburban police departments.”

“It’s not going to get any better, because police departments and police officers are being vilified in this country because of what a handful of bad officers have done.”

“I believe the City of Cleveland needs a plan, and needs the plan right now, for a fourth recruiting class as soon as they can put that together.”

“So we can do what we need to do out here in the streets to protect our citizens because it’s about protect and serve, but for some reason, there’s this denial at city hall that this is not going to happen.”

Polensek said the police department needs to strengthen its relationship with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District in finding police recruits at the high school level.

News 5 reached out to the Cleveland Mayor's Office to get its response to recruitment concerns and it responded with the following statement:

"The Cleveland Division of Police is actively recruiting for the position of patrol officer. Applications can be submitted online. If you or someone you know is interested in law-enforcement, we urge you to apply today."

Meanwhile, Follmer is telling those considering a career in law enforcement not to be discouraged by the current examination of police practices nationwide.

“It’s a climate where people don’t want to be police officers now," Follmer said.

“It is still a great job, and it’s a rewarding job, but unfortunately you’re coming into an atmosphere and you’re not sure how it's going to end day-to-day.”