Columbus, OH – Despite a drastic shortage of officers for patrol, the Columbus City Council just approved another pricey buyout of the police department’s most experienced veterans.
In July, the last of the 100 old-school officers who were incentivized to take early retirement under the mayor’s plan to “reimagine public safety” left the Columbus police force, WSYX reported.
Those officers retired early under a $20 million incentive program which offered a $200,000 “buyout” check to each of them.
Four police commanders, nine lieutenants, 28 sergeants, and 59 officers accepted the buyout, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
An additional 120 officers applied for the buyout but were rejected, and police officials have expressed concern that many of those officers would retire anyway.
Fifty-two new Columbus police officers graduated from the academy on July 29 and have just started field training, but at the rate veteran officers are leaving the department, it will be a long time before the staffing crisis improves, WSYX reported.
But that hasn’t stopped the city from continuing its purge of old-school veteran officers.
This time around, the city has offered a $300,000 buyout each to six deputy chiefs that it wants to see take early retirement, WSYX reported.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther explained the move to reporters after the Columbus Police Academy graduation.
“We want Chief Bryant to make sure she has the people on her team that are going to change and reform the division,” Ginther said. “Take this from being a 20th-century law enforcement organization to a 21st-century community policing organization. Make our officers the defenders and guardians not necessarily the warriors that they have been in the past.”
The mayor said efforts to reform the police department were well worth the cost to taxpayers.
NEW: City Council approved another buyout @ColumbusPolice Deputy Chiefs (there are six) who have 25 years experience can retire early and get $300,000 payout. @MayorGinther says it’s worth the tax dollars to change and reform department. pic.twitter.com/fniRMZ9OBu
— Lu Ann Stoia (@stoiawsyx6) July 29, 2022
Columbus Division of Police Chief Elaine Bryant wouldn’t say whether the city had enough officers to patrol the streets after the last buyout, WSYX reported.
“I would tell you any department would say never,” Chief Bryant said. “Everybody wants more patrol officers, everybody wants more personnel. We are working towards that.”
In May, the police chief told the city that it would have to pay the rest of the Columbus police force double-time this summer in order to get enough officers to volunteer to patrol the city parks during what should be their time off.
Double-time is a 33 percent raise over the regular time-and-a-half rule currently spelled out in the police union contract, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Chief Bryant told the city council at the time that “the reality is that we do have a shortage.”
Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin supported doubling overtime pay for the officers who remained on the police force, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
“We’re facing unprecedented times, and it takes thinking creatively and digging deep,” Hardin said. “…This is an out-of-the-box idea to solve a specific issue that we have this summer.”
The agreement with the Columbus Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) would pay officers double-time “to work Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays between Memorial Day and Labor Day,” according to a press release from the mayor’s office.
Ginther said the double-time incentive would put up to 40 additional officers in high-visibility areas to assist regularly scheduled patrols between 4 p.m. and 3 a.m., The Columbus Dispatch reported.
“Summer is traditionally a time of higher crime, so we need to do all we can to keep our residents safe,” the statement read. “Additional staffing during weekends and well-lit parks are part of a sweeping plan to prevent crime this summer.”