SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio — The Shaker Heights Police Department welcomed four officers from other agencies and swore in a junior officer Monday, highlighting the ongoing struggle to spark new interest in policing and for big agencies to retain officers.
“This is not for the faint of heart,” Officer Von Singleton told us. “This is not just a job that you come and put a badge on and go about your day.”
Growing up on the streets of Cleveland, Singleton never imagined patrolling those same streets as an officer.
“I wasn’t a big police guy growing up,” he said.
Instead, he said, it was his faith and a prompting he received from the Lord that took him to the academy and then the ranks of the Cleveland Division of Police.
“I feel like He really sent me here to change the narrative of what policing should look like,” he said.
Singleton is grateful to the city of Cleveland and for the experience his time with the CDP provided for him. But he says two years working the long shifts away from family and the inadequate pay became “exhausting."
Like many agencies, CDP is facing a shortage of officers. Cleveland Police Chief Wayne Drummond said recently the department was short 230 officers and police unions have said that has led to longer hours to cover shifts.
On Monday, Singleton started his first day at the Shaker Heights Police Department, just blocks away from where he grew up.
During the morning ceremony, Shaker Heights Police Chief Wayne Hudson welcomed him and three other officers to the department, including another officer from the CDP and one from the Akron Police Department.
“Each of these officers has gone through a rigorous and thorough selection process to ensure that they can uphold the values and skills necessary to uphold our department,” Chief Hudson said during the ceremony.
Afterwards, Hudson told 3News that they don’t have a shortage of interest in the job from officers at other agencies. The challenge, he said, is sparking new interest in younger people and those outside the profession.
“We need individuals in this community who want to be law enforcement officers,” Hudson added.
That’s part of the reason Chief Hudson also swore in a junior officer during the ceremony. Eight-year-old Ramaun Dollar said it’s his dream to become a police officer and “get the bad guys."
“I don’t know, for some reason when I used to watch the movies, it just made me so glad that they catched them,” Ramaun said.
Hudson said he believes community policing is the way forward to create more interest in the profession in the younger generation.
“Once you have those relationships and they see it’s not an "us versus them type of situation," and that we want to be a part of the community and not apart from the community, then you’ll start seeing more people join our agency,” he said.
Hudson said they would give Ramaun a mentor and keep in touch with him over the years with the hope that eventually he will achieve his dream and follow in the footsteps of officers like Singleton.
“I feel like I’ve been called to do this, so it’s a difference as opposed to just coming to a do a job to make paycheck,” Singleton said. “It’s bigger than that.”