CLEVELAND — In the city of Cleveland, the majority of violent crimes is up while the number of police officers protecting and serving is down.
In the past five years, each year, an average of 85 Cleveland police officers have retired.
So far in 2021, the number is almost double.
Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association President Jeff Follmer points to morale, wages and the passing of Issue 24 as the reasons.
“It’s going to keep increasing if we don’t fix the problem,” said Follmer.
Retirement is just one problem. Some Cleveland police officers are leaving the city to work in the suburbs for more money and better working conditions.
Follmer said the lack of police officers is being covered by mandatory overtime.
“There have been some examples where an afternoon shift is so short that four or five cars have to stay over to help out,” Follmer said.
“With some of the recent tragedies, people don’t look at police as our friends or allies, and the majority of these police officers go above and beyond the call of duty to keep the communities safe and there are many of us in these neighborhoods who understand this," said Cleveland Councilman Blaine A. Griffin.
Griffin is also chairman of the Safety Committee. He recognizes there is a big problem. Cleveland City Council agreed this week to buy South High School and turn it into a joint training academy for police, fire and EMS.
Griffin pointed to this a part of the solution. But, filling the seats could prove difficult amid a nationwide police shortage. Griffin said police and the public have to work together for a safe city.
“If we value the city we all love, we’re going to work on a solution to compliment each other as opposed to the last one out turn out the lights,” he said.
Cleveland Mayor Elect Justin Bibb said in a statement, “Like many police departments across the nation, the Cleveland Division of Police has been understaffed for too long and retirements happen on a regular basis—that is why we need to act with urgency to rebuild the department. We need to improve working conditions for our police officers, increase pay, update training and bring back community policing. Recruitment must be a top priority to maintain community safety. Our number one goal is to rebuild trust between law enforcement and residents to improve public safety. Cleveland can be a national model of policing in America and that starts with cultural change.”
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