CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The Cleveland City Council approved a measure Wednesday to allow the city to accept a nearly $8 million grant from the Department of Justice to hire 30 police officers.
The ordinance, one of many safety measures approved by council, authorizes the Director of Public Safety to apply for and accept the grant amount of $7,968,944 and any additional funds that become available.
It’s part of the DOJ’s COPS Hiring Program under Operation Legend, formerly known as Operation Relentless Pursuit.
Cleveland is one of 597 agencies receiving funding as part of the program that includes more than $390 million in grants.
“This initiative is designed to combat violent crimes, specifically here in the city of Cleveland. And that’s what it’s doing,” said Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams.
While the measure passed 14-1 in Wednesday’s virtual city council meeting, it was met with spirited debate.
Ward 1 councilman Joe Jones repeatedly pressed Chief Williams and Public Safety Director Karrie Howard about the department’s plans beyond the federal grant.
“Every day I’m finding out someone is getting killed in my neighborhood or their houses have been shot up. I need help,” he said, aiming his words at Williams. “Can we get more officers? This is [a] good start, getting 30 new officers, but it’s not enough.”
Howard responded, explaining that the department would not be able to add any officers beyond the 30 allotted under the DOJ grant.
Williams said the department is constantly looking for ways to add to the force.
Jones ultimately voted to approve the measure.
The only councilman to vote against it was Ward 7′s Basheer Jones.
“I made a commitment that I would be voting on every safety piece until we receive a diversity plan,” he said.
Jones acknowledged good police work and the need for police, but he was vocal about the need for systematic change in law enforcement.
“We can’t police our way out of this situation,” he said of the violence. “When we talk about crime, oh yeah, there are too many murders, too many killings and shootings. You’re right about that. And that’s something we have to fight and something we have to work on. But simultaneously, we have to work on building a stronger bridge between communities and police.”
“The way we do that is when our police officers do something that’s wrong, when they do something that’s harmful to the community, that there’s justice,” Jones added.
Ward 8 councilman Michael Polensek addressed rumors and misconceptions about federal agents entering the city as part of the program.
Polensek acknowledged those rumors are false.
The grant was rewarded to hire 30 local officers, who will be members of the Cleveland Police Department.
In a Wednesday afternoon news conference in Chicago, United States Attorney General William Barr addressed the program, which has expanded during a time of tension between police and the communities they serve.
“Unfortunately too many people in too many cities focus on denigrating, demonizing and defunding police,” Barr said.
Referencing calls from constituents, Polensek tells a different story.
“They want more police on their streets. They want to see greater interaction, more community policing. They don’t want to see less. They want to live in safety. They want to be able to walk down the street,” Polensek said.
The grant will take effect immediately upon the approval of Mayor Frank Jackson.