YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – The Youngstown Police Department is seeing a decreased number of applications to become a Youngstown officer.
Only about 50 people have signed up to take the civil service exam, and the deadline to sign up is just three days away.
On Tuesday, Youngstown Police Chief Robin Lees gave his opinion on why those numbers seem to be so far down compared to years past.
“We’re disappointed but we’re not shocked. We knew it would probably be down to some extent,” he said.
In previous years, Lees says civil service examiners have had a couple hundred applications from both men and women looking to become an officer by the time the exam is actually given.
But this year, that hasn’t been the case.
“Through the course of the first day, they only had about 20 signups, which again was way off what they typically see,” Lees said.
The deadline to put in an application is this Friday.
Lees says his department is down 15 officers, with some promotions happening next week.
“We’re anticipating some attrition before the end of summer, so we could tentatively be down as many as 20 officers going into the fall,” he said.
The chief says this trend in low number recruits is one being felt by all of our local police departments.
Another wild card that could be contributing to the decrease is the fact that Akron is also recruiting, offering a higher pay wage than Youngstown.
“So one of our officers who’s in the, let’s say the lower part of the pay scale through the 12 steps, could be very tempted by an offer like that because Akron is a commutable distance,” Lees said.
But Lees also believes the view of police officers has changed in recent years, and what was once seen as a positive career choice is often questioned.
“Simply because of the way, particularly in recent years, that the media has portrayed police and some of the misconduct that has been alleged. The other thing is where there has been the unprovoked attacks on police,” he said.
He also admits that the department has had trouble retaining some of its officers who leave to pursue better-paying jobs in other departments.
When asked what his department, along with so many others, can do to engage community interest, Lees said he’s not sure what can be done immediately.
“You know, the fact is that we have officers leaving and I think it speaks to the job that we do, as far as our candidates and selection process, that we have folks that are readily employable with other agencies and they’re even sought after. So I think we’ve done a good job in recent years,” he said.
Also on Tuesday, 7th Ward councilwoman Basia Adamczak posted a note to residents on Facebook about the change happening in the city’s community police program.
Her post said that due to staffing constraints, the number of officers in the special unit will change and there will only be four community officers, one for each side of the city.
She says in speaking with Lees the hope is that this is only a temporary change.