Cleveland Police continue to struggle hiring enough recruits, chief stresses quality over quantity

Published: Aug. 2, 2023 at 6:34 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The Cleveland Police Department, like a lot of police departments across the country, has been struggling with officer shortages.

Several hundred police officers left over the last few years and the department can’t fill those spots quickly enough.

It’s an issue the city is grappling with as Cleveland struggles with a violent summer.

Cleveland Police lost 99 officers so far this year from January through July.

Most of the officers who left resigned or retired.

That’s on par with the last two years.

In 2022, CPD lost about 200 officers over the entire year.

In 2021, they lost 186 officers in total.

At a public safety meeting Wednesday, we learned Cleveland Police Department has 1,231 officers right now and 180 additional spots for officers budgeted.

The city can’t replace officers fast enough as academy classes continue to shrink.

Last week, just 11 new CPD officers graduated from the academy.

In total, Public Safety Director Karrie Howard says there will be 37 new police officers hired this year.

And that’s if all of the recruits in one of the scheduled classes make it through.

The city's latest recruits graduated from the Cleveland Police Academy in July.
The city's latest recruits graduated from the Cleveland Police Academy in July.(Cleveland Police Department)

We spoke with Chief Wayne Drummond about the hiring challenge.

“I’ll stress and state-- we’re not going to go quantity over quality. It’s important we get the right people in the position of police officers in the city of Cleveland,” he said.

They’re working to retain officers already on the force.

Last year, the police union made a deal with the mayor’s office to provide 11 percent raises to officers over three years.

Chief Drummond told us officers got bonuses this year and another bonus is coming.

“Our officers are working really hard. I want to stress that over and over again. I’m really proud of their efforts under the circumstances, they’re working tirelessly. I said that and I’ll say that again. I get emotional about it because it’s really challenging, especially the way officers are treated, they’re vilified in some sense, I just want them to know to continue doing what you’re doing, their work is appreciated,” Drummond said.

This is not just a “Cleveland problem.”

First responders are facing a recruiting crisis across the country.

Councilmember Mike Polensek wants the city to offer $10,000 signing bonuses for new police academy graduates.

Chief Drummond said the mayor’s office is in talks for giving recruits bonuses.

Mayor Justin Bibb has been meeting with the Fraternal Order of Police and Cleveland’s police union, CPPA, to find ways to improve retention and recruitment.

They’ll hold the first City of Cleveland Public Safety Summit on August 23.