The Cleveland Police Department has reported record numbers in officer retirements and resignations in recent years as staffing shortages continue to worsen.
In 2022, 200 CPD officers left the department, topping the previous year’s high of 186 and amounting to a net loss of 386 officers over the two years.
To make matters worse, the department is struggling to fill the void with new hires.
Asked how many officers the department hired over the past two years, Chief Wayne Drummond gave an estimate.
“I would say since 2021 to 2022, it’s about 100, about 98,” Chief Drummond said.
Cleveland is not the only city facing this crisis, with many police departments across the country understaffed and struggling to recruit officers.
In Cleveland, the majority of officers who left resigned or retired. Police data showed that at least 90 CPD officers resigned in 2022.
Public Safety Director Karrie Howard and Police Chief Wayne Drummond spoke on Mayor Justin Bibb’s budget proposal last week, which slashed 142 vacant positions at the department.
They also spoke on efforts to hire qualified candidates.
In the interview, Howard commented on the budget cuts, which will leave the department with a budget for 1,500 officers. The department is currently staffed just below 1,300 officers.
“Vacancies don’t keep the city safe. The police officers who are out there actually doing the work keep the city safe,” Howard said.
Despite having fewer vacancies under the new budget, Drummond said they would still take a while to fill.
“If history — at least the recent history last couple years — is any indication of trying to get people to want to become police officers, we’re competing with a small pool of people,” Drummond said. “When I say ‘we,’ that’s law enforcement professionals across the United States of America, from California to Connecticut to New York to Florida and so forth. We’re all competing for the small, small pool of individuals that want to become police officers.”
Asked how the department plans to stem attrition and attract more officers, Chief Drummond said they are considering several possibilities, including a 7% salary increase.
“There will also be another increase this year, to make it more competitive with other cities, what they’re paying their officers. We know that’s important, having a decent salary is really important in retaining those officers. And having an environment where the officers are respected and supported. I think also that’s very important, and I think we’re doing that,” Chief Drummond said.
Part of the recruiting challenge is smaller academy class sizes, with only 13 recruits being enrolled in the city’s current class.
“It’s a challenge for us, but we’re doing everything we can to recruit and bring people in. So if that equates to three or four academy classes, that’s what we’ll put through,” the chief said.
To boost class sizes and attract more candidates, city officials said they are looking to invest in the police with a $90 million headquarters and another $20 million of federal funds for equipment, shot spotters and police cruisers.
“We have to make sure we bring in officers the budget can support — the budget right now is at 1,498. We’re going to do everything in our power throughout recruitment to hire, and again, important — hire qualified individuals,” Chief Drummond said.