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Cleveland officials discuss plans to eliminate vacant police positions

City of Cleveland officials held a press conference on Friday to discuss the mayor's estimated budget for public safety and police staffing.

CLEVELAND — Officials in the City of Cleveland held a press briefing on Friday morning to discuss Mayor Justin Bibb's estimated budget for public safety and police staffing.

City of Cleveland Chief Director of Public Safety Karrie Howard, Chief of Police Wayne Drummond and Chief Finance Officer Ahmed Abonamah each spoke at the press conference, which came days after Bibb's administration revealed plans to eliminate vacant police and city positions in an effort to balance the city's $1.9 billion budget. 

Specifically, the budget estimate calls for the funding of 1,498 Cleveland Division of Police uniformed officers, which is down from 1,640 in 2022. The city also noted in its proposal that at the end of 2022, the actual number of serving uniformed officers stood at 1,292.

During Friday's press conference, Drummond discussed the difficulties that his department is having recruiting and maintaining officers. In particular, the current police academy class is sparse.

"In my 34 years on the job, we've never experienced such an issue of finding individuals that want to become law enforcement officers," Drummond told reporters. "Today, we're lucky to get 200 people to take a test, and [while] we're trying to see an academy class of 50, that's almost impossible. We were only able to find 11 individuals."

The Cleveland Division of Police's budget is slated to increase from $211 million last year to $217 million in 2023 after the city and the police union agreed to a new contract last fall. Officials have stressed that eliminating vacant positions will allow them to allocate their resources elsewhere. 

On Thursday, Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association president Jeff Folmer spoke out against the city's proposal to eliminate 140 police positions.

"We understand the city's financial position is tough, but you don't say you got a raise when you're going to put less people on the streets," Folmer said. "I get that we're not getting recruiting, but we should still keep trying because our citizens deserve it and our officers deserve it."

Drummond contended the city is doing just that.

"We're going to do everything we can to fill that budgeted number," he said. "But I'm also a realist, and for us to achieve that, it's going to take a long time."

You can watch the full press conference in the video player below.

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