CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati police are feeling stretched thin.
The department estimated that staffing levels will reach a critical low in the spring, sparking an emergency joint city council committee meeting Monday. City officials voted in favor of transferring $636,000 from the reserve fund to the police department to help them afford a new recruit class in January. The proposal must still go before the full City Council.
That January class had been pushed back to April because of budget cuts intended to fill a $32.1 million deficit, but Lt. Col. Terri Theetge told the joint committee that the decision could come with a cost. Pushing back the recruit class would mean the department wouldn't be able to keep up with attrition and retirement rates, which would mean long hours, overtime and damaged morale for officers, she said.
If nothing changes, the Cincinnati Police Department will be almost 60 officers below capacity by the spring. Also, dipping below 1,000 officers puts the department at risk of a "code zero," meaning there are no officers available to answer a call, according to Theetge.
"We always prioritize our calls for service and make sure that we get officers to respond to the most critical calls first, but when you start dealing with less officers to make those runs, then even your most critical calls could get held for a minute or two longer than they should," she said.
Theetge pointed to the department's impressive response to the Fifth Third Center shooting as an example of why it's important to have a police department working at fulls strength.
"If we don't have enough people to do that, then even something like that could have a split second delay in response and could mean the difference between a bad event and an even worse event," Theetge said.
Council members at the joint committee meeting Monday agreed that funding the recruit class is important, but there was some disagreement on where to get the money. Councilman David Mann suggested taking money from Bethany House, a shelter for families dealing with homelessness, abuse and poverty, and the Health Gap, a group dedicated to preventing diseases and promoting healthy eating.
If passed by the full council, the money will allow the Cincinnati Police Department to hire 30 new recruits in January, and a federal grant will help them afford 15 more.