Will Jayland Walker shooting affect already difficult task of recruiting and retaining police officers?

Published: Jul. 12, 2022 at 6:53 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - If you’re not directly affected by the protests spurred by Jayland Walker’s death, the affects of recent shooting could eventually reach you wherever you live.

With officers already leaving local departments for a variety of reasons before the incident, recruiting and retaining officers may have just gotten even harder.

Lt. Thomas McMillan sat down with 19 Investigates and reflected on weeks of unrest and police scrutiny over the Walker shooting.

“With the criticism, I believe that officers will be afraid to sign up for this career. They also may decide to pick another career path, that this might not be for them,” he said.

McMillan leads the Cleveland chapter of National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. He wants to reserve final judgement on whether police acted appropriately the night of Walker’s death.

“I’m not privy to everything,” he said.

19 News Investigator Hannah Catlett then asked, “What you’re saying, though, is that all of the attention and scrutiny around it will likely affect other people who are thinking about going into the profession, whether the police acted right or wrong? There’s still all this attention on it.”

“I agree with that,” McMillan said. “People can interpret it differently, negatively or positively. But, at the end of the day I think it’s going to have a huge impact on recruiting and hiring.”

In Cleveland, 19 Investigates uncovered data that shows the police department was already hemorrhaging officers before the Walker shooting.

According to a recently released report, the city’s recruiting plan “was created with the goal of increasing personnel taking into consideration an attrition average of 80 officers a year.”

That estimate was about right in 2015, but the department’s lost more officers than planned each year since.

Last year 186 officers left CPD.

One of them said in his exit interview, “I feel as if we can not do the job that we signed up for. Policies are too restrictive. Example I like to enforce traffic, I do not because if something goes wrong on the traffic stop I feel as if the City would not back me.”

An alleged traffic violation is what initially caught an Akron officer’s attention the night Jayland Walker died.

The recruiting issue apparently demands so much attention recently, that the governor created an entire office dedicated to Law Enforcement Recruitment.

Dr. Patrick Oliver is the office’s lead consultant and a professor at Cedarville University.

Oliver’s extensive background in law enforcement includes serving as Cleveland’s Chief of Police for a short period in the 90′s.

While he believes we’ll have to wait longer to determine whether the Walker shooting will impact interest in law enforcement, he says the job’s certainly changed dramatically since he was patrolling the streets.

Late last week, the governor announced hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money going to local department to pay for retention bonuses to help maintain current law enforcement staffing levels and recruit new officers.

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