The city of Columbus is making strides in staffing up its police department, as the city continues to see a record number of homicides. Mayor Andrew Ginther announced on Wednesday that the city plans to add 30 additional police recruits to its 2018 recruit classes.
The budget Ginther proposed last fall accounted for 70 new police recruits. Now, that total is increased to 100 recruits, spread over two recruiting classes in June and December.
“That is the most police recruits the city has hired in five years,” Ginther said.
Every year, Columbus hires new police officers. But until now, those hires have only kept pace with retirement attrition, and the city has fewer police per capita than other Ohio cities.
“These additional recruits will allow police to put additional resources into neighborhood safety strategies such as Safe Streets, as well as more resources to solve homicides and address gang-related violence, that our chief has asked for,” Ginther said.
Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs said last year the department is “overtaxed” with a backlog of homicide cases. Columbus tallied a record 143 homicides last year, surpassing the previous record in 1991 during the height of the crack epidemic. And the city has seen eight homicides so far in 2018.
Jacobs said she did not ask Ginther for a specific number of new recruits and is happy to see the number increase.
“This is a good expansion. Thirty more officers on the street,” Jacobs said. “We always lose people to retirement and resignation, so this will actually add to our numbers and that’s a really good thing.”
In 2006, there were 763,351 people living in Columbus and 1,822 officers on the police force. In 2017, there were about 860,100 people living in Columbus and 1,918 officers on the police force – a smaller ratio of police-to-people than a decade before.
According to Ginther, approximately two-thirds of the city’s budget goes towards police and fire. He says the increase in recruits will cost the city $1 million. Columbus City Council is investing half a million dollars towards the cost, and the rest will come from carry-over funds from 2017.
“These additional recruits will allow police to put additional resources into neighborhood safety strategies such as safe streets, as well as more resources to solve homicides and address gang-related violence, that our chief has asked for,” Ginther said.
Columbus City Council president Shannon Hardin said the city is investing another half a million dollars towards community initiatives.
“These additional officers will give patrols the ability to leave their cars, meet residents, and establish relationships with those they serve,” Hardin said.
Ginther announced last fall that Columbus will implement a Comprehensive Neighborhood Safety Strategy, which includes ending of the controversial Community Safety Initiative, implementing a pilot program to increase foot patrols. The strategy also includes an 11-member community safety advisory commission that will review how the Columbus Police operate.
People’s Justice Project lead organizer Tammy Fournier Alsaada has said in the past that adding more police will not solve the city's problems.