Cleveland Reducing the Number of Police Officer Positions as Hiring Lags

The mayor’s budget proposal cuts 148 vacant police positions

click to enlarge Cleveland Reducing the Number of Police Officer Positions as Hiring Lags
Sam Allard / Scene

For the second year in a row, Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration has proposed stripping more positions from the city’s shrinking police department. Last year, council members criticized, but eventually approved, Bibb’s proposal to cut 142 vacant officer positions from the police budget.

Cleveland is among several cities since 2020 that has had more officers quit and retire than they’ve been able to recruit. A U.S. Department of Justice report released in October called it a “historic crisis” and attributed it to a slew of issues: the COVID-19 pandemic, a tight labor market, community frustration with policing and concerns about officer health and safety. Cleveland has 25% fewer officers than it did before the pandemic.

This year, the mayor’s budget proposal cuts 148 vacant police positions, in large part to pay for $11.6 million in officer pay raises and retention bonuses. Despite those increases, and retaining a marketing firm to help recruit candidates, the department currently has fewer than 1,200 officers.

The administration is proposing to fund a total of 1,350 sworn officers this year, a steep decrease from the 1,640 in 2022. Still, city leaders say it’s unclear whether even that goal can be met.

City Council President Blaine Griffin called the proposed cuts concerning, especially because the city called in help from federal, state and local law enforcement partners this year to address an uptick in crime.

Even with the proposed staffing, the $230 million police budget would be about 6% higher and account for about 30% of the city’s total general fund budget of $778 million.

This article was published in partnership with The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system. Sign up for their newsletters, and follow them on Instagram, TikTok, Reddit and Facebook.
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