CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Police Department is short-staffed by nearly 70 officers, Chief Eliot Isaac told City Council Tuesday, and the problem could get worse before it gets better.
Isaac told the Budget and Finance Committee that his department is budgeted for 1,059 sworn officers but currently only has 990 out on the streets, making his districts "about 69, 70 officers short."
Isaac's presentation came a week after Cincinnati Fire Department Chief Roy Winston said his department is short nearly 50 firefighters, due to COVID-19-related sick outages and retirements.
A new police recruit class of 50 will graduate in March, but Isaac estimates 52 more will retire by that time next year, in March 2022, and warned many more are eligible to do so.
"Of the 990 (officers) that are current, 183 of those officers have 25 years of service or more and are at least 48 years of age, meaning that they could retire at any moment," Isaac said. "So, about 20% of the department fits into that category."
Union president Sgt. Dan Hils said he believes officers are retiring younger due to the current divided political climate -- including heightened calls for police and criminal justice reform -- and the additional stress that has been placed on police personnel.
"We're in a time and place where there's going to have to be priority on hiring and training police officers," Hils said.
While current staffing still provides basic service, Hils said, such a deficit could lead to safety issues for officers as well as the public.
But Hils also said short-staffing is nothing new.
"I'm not going to tell the public that there's absolutely never a gap," he said. "There are times when people call 911, and they should have a policeman dispatched right away, and we just don't have that policeman available."
To deal with the problem, Isaac said, the department has relied on its current staff to work overtime.
"It's only a short-term solution to the problem," the chief admitted.
Isaac asked the committee that, as they prepare for next year's budget negotiations, they find funding for more recruit classes. Currently, a federal grant is providing money for the next two upcoming classes.