April 24, 2014

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Lorain police hiring 9 new officers

LORAIN — Nine new police officers are being hired by the Police Department, which has 90 officers and 23 unfilled positions.

“We’re really in desperate need of police officers,” Police Chief Cel Rivera said Wednesday. “Any time you reduce your force by that many, you have to offset by providing enough overtime so that some of the other officers can take up some of the slack.”

The department has been budgeted for 113 positions since 1998, Rivera said. While able to avoid layoffs, positions have remained unfilled through the years as officers retired.

There are seven to eight officers on typical shifts, but fewer officers mean longer response times for the department, whose officers respond to some 65,000 calls annually. To reduce delays, the department on May 23 began an online reporting system to report minor crimes. However, with officers bouncing from call to call during busy times, frustrated crime victims cooling their heels in the department lobby at 100 W. Erie Ave., while waiting to file complaints is a common sight.

Most of the new officers will be paid for through a police levy, a 0.25 percent property tax, which generates about $1.9 million annually. The department has an approximately $9 million annual budget including about $200,000 for overtime. Rivera said the rest of the officers will be paid for through Lorain’s approximately $31.6 million annual general fund budget.

Rivera said he hopes some of the new hires will be certified officers, saving city taxpayers the cost of academy training. Certified officers could also save the department time.

Newly hired certified officers could hit the streets in the next two months. For recruits, the hiring process is far longer.

Before undergoing approximately 14 weeks of academy training, recruits must undergo extensive scrutiny including criminal background checks, drug testing, oral exams, psychological tests and polygraph exams. Rivera said the process usually takes two or three months and open slots at the Lorain County Community College Police Academy and the Cleveland Heights Police Academy — the academies the department uses to train recruits — won’t be available until September and January respectively.

Next month, two officers plan to retire and another officer will leave for military service in the Middle East, but Rivera said the departures will be offset by last week’s hiring of two dispatchers and two detention officers for the Lorain City Jail.

The department has 16 dispatchers and the jail has four detention officers with two more detention officers to be hired next month.

“Those are positions that have to be filled by police officers,” he said. “It helps us a lot when we fill those.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.