Public safety
10:40 am
Mon December 9, 2013

No surprise, staffing problems for Cincy police and fire

The Cincinnati Police and Fire Departments are continuing to deal with problems because of the decreasing number of personnel.  

The police and fire chiefs both addressed Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee Monday.

Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell said a smaller staff means it takes officers longer to respond to 911 calls for service, even those that are a priority.  And it could cause a change to the way the department polices the city.

“Certainly I do not want to take this department back to a point where we are so short staffed that we become completely reactive in nature,” Blackwell said.  “That’s no goof for the City of Cincinnati or the citizens here, where the only thing that we can keep up with is requests for service.  We need to be proactive, problem solvers.”

Right now the police department is about 200 officers below its peak a few years ago, and the shortage is only growing with no new officers joining the force.  

The police chief said the department is ready to launch a new recruit class as soon as city council approves funding for it.  

Meanwhile, Fire Chief Richard Braun said on a typical day five pieces of fire equipment are browned out, or not in service, because a staffing shortage.

“To provide this city with minimum staffing coverage, we should have 192 firefighters a day,” Braun said.  “With five brownouts, we’re down to 172 people.  So we’re below minimum every day that we work.  So we don’t even have a minimum workforce of firefighters available for this city.”

Braun said a new fire recruit class scheduled to graduate in February will help the problem.  He says he's hoping for another class to start training early next year.

Law and Public Safety Committee chairman Christopher Smitherman said Monday’s testimony should make it clear the conversation about laying off police officers and firefighters is over.