Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown swore in the city’s newest police recruits Thursday.
Police Chief Robin Lees admits keeping manpower levels in the department stable is always a problem.
“The retirements we can kind of anticipate, but this unexpected attrition we’ve been experiencing the last year or so that’s starting to take its toll,” Lees said.
Current staffing stands at 157 sworn officers, half what it was in the mid-1980s, but the department has lost 16 officers in just the last two years. Lees says that has a lot to do with the city’s inability to pay competitively compared to some of the areas just outside of Youngstown such as Akron, Cleveland and Columbus.
Recently, the department has focused on recruiting minorities who now make up a third of the force. Those hired Thursday say they want to make a difference in the way police are perceived in their communities.
“Police officers have a certain look that they’re portraying nowadays, and it’s not all bad. You just need some good officers to do some good things,” said Dan Spivey, III, a new recruit in the department.
Changing the perception of police is something the new recruits are taking seriously. Carlo Eggleston is anxious to do what he can to create trust between officers and the communities they serve.
“If I can change one person a day over the next 30 years, that’s a lot of people. You know what’s going on out there. People don’t like police officers, so I am trying to change it,” Eggleston said.
Jason Quarrie came to Youngstown from Jamaica where he was the fire chief of Kingston. He wanted to join the Youngstown City Fire Department, but there is an age limit 36 years old. Quarrie is 45.
“I was actually too old to be a firefighter, so I decided to challenge myself to become a police officer,” Quarrie said.
The next step for all of the new recruits will be training. Some could hit the streets on their own later this year.