YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Beginning Sunday, the city police department will be begin rotating officers with patrolmen ranks who work in a special unit onto the road to work with the Patrol Division.
The rotations will take place every two weeks until the end of September and will affect officers who work in such units as the vice squad, U.S. Marshals Northern Ohio Fugitive Task Force, Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force as well as the Traffic Unit, Detective Bureau and Planning and Training and the Crime Lab.
The officers will be primarily assigned to afternoon and midnight turn, said Staff Inspector Lt. Brian Butler, who helped coordinate the scheduling at the behest of police Chief Carl Davis.
Davis said he wants the extra manpower to shore up shortages in the Patrol Division and also to help concentrate on reducing the number of shootings the city has seen so far this year. Every two weeks, four officers from one of those units will work with the Patrol Division, then return to their previous assignment.
As of Friday, so far 26 people in Youngstown have been shot, seven of them fatally. At this point in 2020, the city had seen 16 people shot, nine of those fatally. For all of 2020, 98 people were shot, 27 of them fatally. The city closed out 2020 with 28 homicides.
In 2019, the city saw 58 people shot, including all of the city’s 20 homicide victims.
“It will give us some more help to combat the shootings on the streets,” Butler said.
A total of 13 officers will be involved in the rotation, Butler said,
The city has 95 officers with the rank of patrolman, and of those, 68 work in the Patrol Division.
Butler said that is the lowest number of officers assigned to the Patrol Division since he started on the department over 20 years ago.
The city in recent years has seen an exodus of officers because of retirements and other officers leaving because of what has been perceived as a low starting wage. The city added several new officers in 2019 but almost none in 2020 because of the pandemic.
Former Chief Robin Lees, who left in January after a dispute with Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, was hoping to add 10 to 12 new officers in 2020, but the department made no new hires.
Before seven new officers were added in December of 2019, Lees pulled in other patrolmen who were assigned to the task forces, vice squad or the Crime Lab to help augment a shortage in the Patrol Division. After the seven new hires were up to speed, almost all of those officers went back to their previous assignments.
Butler said it is hoped the city can add some new officers this year with federal grant money, but even with that, by the time the hiring process is completed as well as their training, it could be months before they are on the street.
The department in the past has relied on such as the Law Enforcement Task Force to help with major drug investigations and the Marshals to help track down violent, wanted fugitives or people with warrants.
Butler said the rotations are being worked out so that none of those units are missing more than one city officer at a time who is assigned to them.
Butler said the move is also a goal of the chief’s, to make sure officers with the rank of patrolman get some work on patrol throughout the year to keep their training fresh and for a chance to gain experience using new equipment, including the department’s complex reporting system.
Davis also wants to keep the rotations going every summer to put extra officers on the street during what is typically the department’s busiest time of the year.