Heroin to hiring problems: A conversation with Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams

DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams says a cop's job is to provide public safety, especially for students going and coming from school.

That fact was highlighted this past weekend when a 15-year-old boy was shot and killed. A 17-year-old boy was also recently killed on a school playground.

"The job of a current police officer has changed a lot in the 30 years since I became a police officer," Williams said.

There's also the heroin problem causing deadly overdoses.

"February was one of the busiest months for overdoses in a long time in this city and in this county. People have to understand you have to seek help for this," Williams said. "You can't just kick it on your own."

Another problem? Getting people to become police.

Cleveland has about 1,500 officers to serve and protect more than 300,000 residents. The city loses between 70 to 80 officers a year due to retirement and such. The chief says when he applied three decades ago, close to 5,000 people applied to take the test. His latest call saw about 1,500 applicants, and 1,000 or so passed the initial vetting process.

Williams wants more people to serve and protect.

The job offers good benefits and decent pay with room for promotion.

"Become part of the solution or stay part of the problem," Williams said. "There are lot of young, energetic, intelligent folks out there that have a lot to say about policing and the way things should go. I challenge them to be a part of it."

Another big problem -- bad boys riding dirt bikes and ATVs on city streets. They do wheelies and put themselves -- and the public -- at major risk.

"We're not going to endanger everybody life chasing a person on a dirt bike for a traffic offense," Williams said.

Cops cars can't catch them anyway, so the department and city tried thinking outside the box by building a controversial $2.3 million dirt bike track. Williams says the police still need residents' eyes and ears.

"When these individuals get together to start their rides they start at some location in the city and people see them," he said. "But we don't get those phone calls."

The city needs more cops and two classes are in the pipeline -- one of about 20 started March 6 and one just got back from training in Columbus. They will be graduating in April and May.

Copyright 2017 WOIO. All rights reserved.