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Cleveland cutting 142 police positions

City has lost 32% of its police force over last three years
Posted at 5:19 PM, Feb 02, 2023

CLEVELAND — Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb has proposed reducing the number of police officers to help balance the city’s budget, a move that would reduce the understaffed CPD by 142 positions in a department facing backlogs, huge caseloads and costing taxpayers millions of dollars in overtime.

Bibb once again refused a request for an interview about police staffing.

Director of Public Safety Karrie Howard was left to face questions about shrinking the size of the city’s police force.

“None of these decisions are easy,” said Howard. “But none of these decisions are being made without thoughtful consideration to being fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars, keeping this city safe, and making sure that the officers who we do have, the people who actually field positions have everything they need to do their job."

Howard said recruitment numbers remain low and that it wouldn’t make sense to budget for the same number of Cleveland police officers. There are only 13 cadets in the current academy class.

The mayor’s budget proposal to cut 142 police positions comes after he promised to put officers on the streets during his campaign. There has been no significant reduction in crime and the city is facing a wave of car thefts.

842 Kias and Hyundais stolen in Cuyahoga County in just 2 months

Police union president Jeff Follmer said he was surprised the mayor would cut police positions in a city consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous in America.

“To have a successful city, you need a safe city,” he said. “I'm hoping that he relooks at these numbers and some money goes back into our department to try to recruit and keep recruiting and get to our numbers so our citizens are safer and our guys aren't as burned out.”

Dangerously Understaffed: How a Cleveland police officer earned more than the mayor in 2021

Two-hundred officers left the force last year, more than the department lost in 2021 (187), and in 2020 (133). Over three years, Cleveland lost 32% of its force.

"Our officers do feel it. They're working longer hours. They're working hard, but they're stepping up to the challenge," said Jarod Schlacht, the new First District Commander.

The city has struggled to fill positions.

"We're not even treading water," said longtime Councilman Michael Polensek, adding, "I've never seen this number of officers, the level of depletion within the ranks."

In the last three years, just 228 cadets graduated from the academy, less than half the number of those who left.

The city is offering a $3,000 signing bonus. Bibb said he would use a marketing firm to recruit officers but has yet to hire one.

The city now allows beards, tattoos and ballcaps, as well as a $3,000 bonus to officers who agree to stay for two years, and it negotiated an 11% raise over three years with the police union.

"It's stressful time," said union chief Follmer. "I mean, we need to get back to our numbers to give the quality of service to the citizens and, like I said, our members need a break."

More than 400 Cleveland officers became eligible to retire on Jan. 1.

Said one resident, "It's kind of crazy because with the crime rate, especially in this area (waves hand), we need officers. We really need them."

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