Safety is a top priority for residents, wherever in Akron they live. Statistics may indicate that crime in the city is on the decline, but often all it takes for residents to question whether they are safe on the streets, in their neighborhoods and public places and even in their homes are a string of well-publicized or unsolved crimes. Inevitably, the questions dwell on the strength and visibility of the police force.
A year ago, Don Plusquellic announced plans to recruit 40 new officers to beef up the department to the budgeted strength of 447. Seven new officers were sworn in this week, and 14 others who are going through certification training will join the force within the next four to six months. Akron won a federal grant last year that will cover up to 75 percent of the entry-level salaries of the 40 officers for three years, including 12 who must be military veterans. A second grant awarded recently provides $1.25 million for 10 additional new officers for three years. The city is required to retain the positions for at least 12 months after the grant period. In effect, for the next four years, the police department is likely to meet or come close to its budgeted strength.
The department appears also to be having some success with the recruiting campaign to increase diversity on the force, a source of concern over many years. Of the seven officers sworn in Wednesday, two are women and three are African-American. The challenge is to ensure that future cohorts similarly diverse.