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City hopes to hire additional 170 police officers, 125 firefighters in push for public safety

The money will go in part toward recruitment efforts for the Columbus Division of Police and Columbus Fire Department.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The city plans to allocate more than $660 million toward improving public safety in Columbus, Mayor Andrew Ginther and city leaders announced Tuesday. 

The money, which comes from the city’s 2022 operating budget, will go in part toward recruitment efforts for the Columbus Division of Police and Columbus Fire Department. 

In total, the city plans to set aside more than $9 million for three police recruit classes with the goal of hiring an additional 170 officers, as well as three fire recruit classes to bring on an additional 125 new firefighters in the coming year. 

Typically, there are only two classes for each department. Ginther said the additional classes for police and fire are a one-time investment.

A 2019 report from the Matrix Consulting group, which was hired to do a review of the division, said there was a need for 200 additional officers. So far in 2021, 150 officers have left the department.

RELATED: Columbus police looking at options to increase patrol officers amid staffing shortage

“The officers will be trained extensively in community policing, which is crucial to bridging the divide between the community and the police while addressing the current spike in crime,” Ginther said in part in a statement. 

Violent crime has been a major issue in the city for families and popular businesses.

There were two non-fatal shootings at Polaris Fashion Place in March, a non-fatal shooting at Easton Town Center in August and a homicide at a Target store near Easton on Monday.

“Based on what we know what happened yesterday, and also earlier in the year involved folks who knew each other. These weren't just random acts of violence that took place. We know Easton and Polaris are very safe,” Ginther said.

A portion of the funding will also go toward expanding the Comprehensive Neighborhood Safety Strategy, which was designed to tackle crime in the city using a combination of new and proven strategies. 

That includes bringing increased bike patrol units to more neighborhoods under the city’s Safe Streets program, expanding services for opiate overdose patients through the RREACT program, continuing to invest in Group Violence Intervention Strategy and more.   

The rest of the funding for those programs will come from city departments directly involved in the effort, according to a release from the city.  

“My 35 years in law enforcement has made clear we cannot arrest our way out of these problems,” said Public Safety Director Robert Clark. “We have to find new ways to do old things. That means community engagement, resident involvement and innovative programming that promote health, healing and restoration.”

The Columbus Urban League is one organization that will receive funds from the budget. 

We asked President and CEO Stephanie Hightower if more money is going to help?

"More money equals more capacity to do and to serve more children more youth more neighborhood kind of events," she said. "What the city has done now is they're making investments in that grassroots kind of programs that are really attractive to young people." 

The briefing comes just one day after Columbus police confirmed the city’s 175th homicide of 2021. With two months still remaining in the year, the city is now tied for most homicides ever reported in a calendar year. The last time police reported a record high of 175 was in 2020.

“The amount of violence we are seeing in our city is unacceptable. We are going to continue to work with the leadership and Chief Bryant and Director Clark, what is the best way for us to protect Columbus neighborhoods and serving our neighbors,” Ginther said.

Ginther plans to unveil the proposed 2022 general fund on Nov. 15.