Cleveland Police Hiring Cap to Be Raised from 40 to 55

Dec. 5, 2023
The change is meant to help with recruitment for Cleveland police, where staffing has dropped to 1,191 officers — far below the city’s current target of 1,498.

CLEVELAND—Cleveland City Council is poised to give Mayor Justin Bibb the go-ahead to start hiring police officers who are over the age of 40.

A City Council committee on Monday afternoon OK’ed Bibb’s request to lift Cleveland police’s hiring cap from age 40 to age 55. The full council is expected to give final approval on Monday night.

The change is meant to help with recruitment for Cleveland police, where the headcount has dropped to 1,191 officers — far below the city’s current target of 1,498.

Some have raised concerns about the ability of older folks to effectively serve as police officers, including council’s Public Safety Chairman Mike Polensek, who on Monday said he has some reservations but was willing to “give it a shot.”

Public Safety Chief Karrie Howard sought to assuage concerns like those. He said City Hall will still use its normal “vigorous” vetting process to identify which candidates ought to be hired, which includes a physical agility test, psychological exam, background check and social media review.

“We are not going to hire somebody to work for the Division of Police who is not able to do the job,” Howard said.

Plus, older applicants often bring with them valuable skills that would be beneficial to the police department, such as better emotional intelligence, and the ability to problem-solve and negotiate, Howard said. He also said they often have “the ability to handle high stress situations with calmness and maturity,” which “can be especially beneficial in deescalating conflicts and reducing the use-of-force.”

Howard said the city isn’t necessarily looking for older candidates to join, say, the SWAT team or Gang Impact Unit.

“We’re looking for folks to interact with the public on quality-of-life issues,” he told council members.

One demographic the new policy could attract is former military members, who can retire as early as 38, he said. Under the old policy, those early military retirees would only have a two-year window to join Cleveland police. Now, that window will be much longer.

In fact, Howard said the idea is already generating interest among possible future candidates. He said the city has received several phone calls from potential applicants, which tells him there’s “significant interest” from older candidates.

Howard didn’t rule out pushing the age cap even further in the future, but he said City Hall wants to evaluate how this change plays out before making other changes. Council members asked about potentially dropping the youngest eligible age for officers from 21 to 18, but Howard wasn’t keen on the idea. He said research shows that brains aren’t fully developed until the mid-20s.

State law requires all police to retire by the age of 65. Cleveland’s policy change will not affect the retirement cap.

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