CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The 137th Cleveland Division of Police Academy graduation is Friday morning at City Hall. The department is adding 20 officers who transferred from other area departments. They completed 10 weeks at the academy.
Myra Simmons leads the Marshall Avenue Safety Group in the city's Kinsman area. She was born in Cleveland and lives on the same block where she grew up.
She said above all, she wants to see the new officers truly understand the neighborhoods they'll be patrolling. Simmons has confidence they will, because of their previous law enforcement experience. She hopes they'll engage with the community- not just during emergencies.
"I know they just can't go out there and just put their guards down at all times," Simmons said. "But I believe they're trained. That's what they're doing is training them to address different issues, and I believe they will let their guards down to interact with us. Our main focus is safety and keeping the community together- the surrounding neighborhoods together."
Each year, Simmons hosts block parties, summer movie nights for kids and a back to school fair. She also runs the community garden. Her work has earned her the mayor's key to the city. Simmons said she could live anywhere, but she chooses Cleveland because she wants to make it a better place to live. Reducing neighborhood crime, blight and providing kids with constructive activities is her mission.
The new police hires come at a time when the department is still struggling to recruit. The police union said the starting salary for Cleveland officers is about $25,000 less than surrounding communities and cities like Columbus. Even with this most recent hiring, the department will still be more than 100 officers short of what they're budgeted for. The union said two police academies of at least 50 people need to happen each year just to keep up with attrition.