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'Woefully understaffed': Cleveland City Council members say police must do better

Cleveland police
Posted at 4:12 PM, Oct 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-23 18:17:57-04

CLEVELAND — Members of Cleveland City Council’s safety committee are asking for answers from the Cleveland Division of Police about staffing levels in three units.

Committee members described several of the division’s units as “woefully understaffed,” after discussion at the meeting about a grant for domestic violence resources. The specific units were the division’s homicide, sex crimes and domestic violence units.

Several council members took Michael McGrath, the city’s public safety director, to task, telling him the police chief has repeatedly said he would fill positions in those understaffed units but that so far, that hasn’t happened.

Right now, according to council members, there are only ten homicide detectives in a unit where there should be 23.

RELATED: Cleveland families who lost loved ones to gunfire demand more homicide detectives be hired

Councilman Michael Polensek (Ward 8) said the division needs to do a better job of filling positions to make sure it can serve the community.

“There comes a point when you have six-year-old children murdered in their living room by 28 gunshots in a house,” Polensek said, referring to the death of Lyric Lawson. “And to find out that our homicide unit is substantially down in investigators, trying to find the perpetrators of that horrendous crime, I mean, it’s about credibility.”

McGrath said part of the reason police haven’t been able to staff those units fully is because they fell behind on graduating academy classes during and after the 2016 Republican National Convention. He said there are more than 80 officers currently in the academy and the division hopes that will allow for higher staffing levels soon.

Councilman Matt Zone (Ward 15), the chair of the safety committee, said he plans to hold a hearing in the next month or so to talk with the police chief and other leaders about what’s being done to get these units staffed appropriately, as well as to support officers currently in those units who are overworked and stressed due to heavy workloads.