YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Members of the Youngstown Police Association picketed outside of City Hall on Front Street Wednesday.

In a letter, union officials said the goal is to “educate the public about the City’s take-it-or-leave-it bargaining strategy” and its “unfair proposal to our union members.”

The Youngstown Police Department is hemorrhaging manpower. It is down roughly forty officers from levels of just three years ago. Some have retired, others went to other departments, but some are giving up law enforcement altogether.

“We had one person leave for concrete trades. We had one person leave and go to Akron Children’s Hospital for security there because they pay more,” said Youngstown Police Association president James Rowley.

More than the nearly $16.50 an hour new officers in the city are paid, according to the head of the Youngstown Police Association.

After weeks of contract negotiations, members of the union took to the streets Wednesday carrying signs and complaining the wage issue is hampering the city’s ability to attract new recruits and keep them.

“They are going to be like we watch the news. We see crime going on. We don’t want to do that for that money,” Rowley said.

“They are paying $15 an hour at fast food places, and they are having a hard time bringing people in. It’s simple — law enforcement costs money,” said Tom Austin with the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.

As Mayor Tito Brown and others were talking with reporters Wednesday at the Covelli Centre, YPA members gathered outside. Mayor Brown said while he wants to see officers paid competitive wages, he adds the negotiation process is only beginning.

“At the end of the day, I wanted this to be the first time in 10 years or better where the mayor will take legislation to city council with these salaries and with this benefit package,” Brown said.

And while the city tries to hire new officers, union leaders argue it doesn’t address the immediate problem.

“You might be looking at anywhere from 8 to 10 months to a year before they are actually able to work a car by themselves and be out on patrol,” Rowley said.

The union is promising additional protests through the weekend.