Columbus, OH – The mayor’s plan to “reimagine public safety” by enticing long-time Columbus police officers “resistant to change and reform” to retire appears to have worked too well and now the city doesn’t have enough cops for this summer.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther announced the $20 million incentive program which offered a $200,000 “buyout” check to 100 old-school officers that the city wanted to take off the streets, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
Four police commanders, nine lieutenants, 28 sergeants, and 59 officers accepted the buyout.
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, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
Columbus Division of Police Chief Elaine Bryant told the city council on Monday that the city would have to pay the rest of the 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.
The buyout to assist the city with reimagining public safety was part of a three-year contract the city approved last year.
That contract also gave Columbus police officers a 14 percent overall raise over three years and was budgeted at a cost of an additional $70 million to the city, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
Chief Bryant told the city council that “the reality is that we do have a shortage.”
She said the city was in the process of hiring new officers but that the new officers wouldn’t be trained in time to solve the shortfall in staffing, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
A third of the 100 officers who were paid to quit the police department will leave the ranks each month for the next three months, according to Chief Bryant.
She said new police recruits would not complete the academy before the end of this summer, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
In April, the police department announced for the first time ever that it would begin accepting lateral transfers from other law enforcement agencies, WBNS reported.
“We want to make sure that we have a safe summer for our residents,” the police chief said. “We want to make sure that people can enjoy the parks, they can enjoy outside… It is our priority to make sure that people can come out and enjoy this without fear of having a type of incident that can occur.”
In recent months, a string of violent crimes have occurred in Columbus city parks, including a knife fight between adults that resulted in an eight year old getting shot in the abdomen, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
“It may be a challenging summer,” Columbus Division of Police Assistant Chief Greg Bodker said. “…Officers might not be in the park as much as we might like them to be. There’s a lot of streets and neighborhoods to patrol in addition to the parks.”
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.”
The cost of the double-time for the city has not yet been released, The Columbus Dispatch reported.