Police chief says new budget proposal won’t hurt daily operations

CLEVELAND (WJW) – Cleveland Police Chief Wayne Drummond sat down with the FOX 8 I-Team Thursday to discuss the department’s proposed 2024 budget, which calls for the reduction of the number of budgeted police officers.

“We are talking about vacant positions,” Drummond said. “When we were budged for 1,498 which was in 2023 last year, it was almost impossible, to be honest with you, to reach those particular numbers with the amount of officers resigning.”

There are currently 1,175 officers on the force and the chief says they have to be realistic about being able to reach the budgeted number of officers. Cleveland hired about 40 new officers last year.\

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The chief added that Mayor Justin Bibb’s Raising Investment in Safety for Everyone Initiative increased the pay for officers. He said that is helping keep the current officers from leaving. The initiative also increased pay for new recruits.

“The budget that is being proposed for the 1,350 does not affect us adversely relative to our operation,” the chief said. “We are going to continue to do what we are doing out there, which is to provide quality service to our residents.”

But some Cleveland city council members and the president of Cleveland’s Police Patrolmen’s Association say they have major concerns about the proposed budget.

“Very alarming,” said Cleveland Councilman Richard Starr. “I receive a lot of calls from residents on how they need more patrol officers in the community.”

Councilman Michael Polensek agrees with Starr, saying residents complain about long response times.

Council President Blaine Griffin released the following statement on the issue.

“We received the projected budget today. The continued reduction of Cleveland’s police force advocated by the administration is concerning. Last year, council accepted cuts with the understanding the city would work with an external marketing agency to recruit new officers. We are waiting for the results from their work.

“After needing assistance from outside agencies including the State Highway Patrol, Cuyahoga County Sheriff, and the US Marshals to address the city’s crime surge, reducing the number of officers the city needs, requires further discussion.

“During budget hearings, we’ll review the proposal, learn more about the rationale, and determine if the proposed reduction in the number of uniformed police is in the best interest of our residents.”

Cleveland Chief Financial Officer Ahmed Abonamah stressed the overall budget for the police department increased this year from $217 million to $231 million.

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“If the divisions and the safety departments recruitment efforts go far better, and we find ourselves at that 1,350 budgeted number and looking like we could go over it, the administration with council will revisit the budgeted headcount,” Abonamah said.

Council budget hearings are expected to start at the end of the month.

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