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Dangerously Understaffed: Why Cleveland police staffing numbers may get worse

Approx. 30% of officers eligible to retire
Cleveland police
Posted at 5:00 PM, Nov 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-23 19:29:26-05

CLEVELAND — News 5 Investigators found Cleveland police's staffing shortage may get worse in 2023. Records show 30% of Cleveland police officers are eligible to retire next year.

Staffing records show 419 officers will have served at least 25 years as of 2023, which makes them eligible to hang up their badges.

How many officers left

Cleveland has hemorrhaged police officers since 2020.

We found 30% of the city's police force left the department between January 1, 2020 and October 31, 2022.

The city's personnel bulletins show 176 officers have left so far this year. Most of the officers retired or resigned.

This follows the loss of 186 Cleveland police officers in 2021. There were 133 departures in 2020.

How it impacts communities

This comes as residents complain about the lack of police presence in their communities caused by the current staffing crisis.

"People are concerned," said Blaine Griffin, Cleveland City Council President. Griffin also represents Ward 6.

"People want to see more visibility," he said. "They want to see a police car ride up their street. They want police officers engaged in a lot of different ways in their communities."

"They still feel like police are responding to calls. They still get service when they want service," he said. "It's just some of the proactive policing."

How many were hired

Like police departments across the country, Cleveland is also struggling to replenish its ranks.

In August, 25 new officers graduated.

However, the next police academy class was canceled last summer after the city found only 9 candidates.

"Let's be honest," Griffin said. "The environment to recruit police officers nationwide has been a challenge. It's just a challenge."

What Cleveland is doing

News 5 Investigators first asked Mayor Bibb's office for an on-camera interview about recruitment and retention three weeks ago.

His office has yet to make anyone available.

During a news conference on crime this summer, Bibb announced plans to hire a marketing firm to help the city attract police officers.

However, three months later, the city has yet to release an RFP.

"I think we need a more rigorous marketing process," Griffin said. "I think we have to be a little bit more thrifty... I don't think it's just the administration's responsibility. I think we have to be clever and I think we have to meet people where they are."

The Bibb administration did send out an RFP for a consultant to evaluate how many officers the city needs and how the officers should be deployed.

What residents want

Resident Erika Watson said police presence is nearly non-existent in her neighborhood on Cleveland's East Side.

"They barely come down in my neighborhood. They don't come down the street. You don't see them" she said. "People pretty much doing what they want to do because they know the police are not around."

Watson said she used to see officers more often in the St. Clair Superior neighborhood.

"It makes me feel very sad," she said. "I'm just hoping they do something about this really soon."

"I mean, we want to feel safe, we want to be safe, but how can we?" she said. "We don't have police officers out there. "

Read previous stories in investigator Sarah Buduson's "Dangerously Understaffed" series of reports below:

RELATED: 1 out of every 4 Cleveland Police officers has left the job during the pandemic

RELATED: Dangerously Understaffed: 46 officers left Cleveland police in May, June

RELATED: Dangerously Understaffed: Cleveland locates vehicle in fewer than 1 in 5 hit-skips

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