CPD says more officers needed to keep up with opiate epidemic and mental health runs

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Mayor Andrew Ginther announced his $890.6 million budget proposal yesterday afternoon. Two-thirds or $601.7 million is being allocated for police and fire.

But, Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs said 70 new police recruits included in the budget isn’t enough to keep up with the opiate epidemic and people in a mental health crisis.

NBC4 went on a ride-along with CPD Ofc. Michael Huffman to see what their daily calls for service looks like on the near west side.

“We work constant. It’s from [the] time we start, to the time we end,” said Ofc. Huffman.

Within about 15 minutes of leaving substation #8, there’s a call for service.

“She’s stressed out, said she was going to hurt herself to her daughter,” said Ofc. Huffman, on the scene.

This call is classified as a mental health run and Ofc. Huffman said they happen a lot, along with heroin overdoses.

He said because they’re often so busy helping people in crisis, other calls sometimes have to wait.

“If somebody calls for a report, their car was broken into during the night, the home was broken into. Unfortunately, those runs hold because of the other priority runs for overdoses because it’s a person in dire need,” he said.

These kinds of calls for overdoses and mental illness are why Chief Jacobs said the city needs to hire more officers than the budget allows.

“There’s not enough treatment beds, anywhere. So, that’s fine and dandy for everyone to say there’s not enough beds, but the officer is dealing with that particular person that needs treatment. What do you do when you have no beds and no place to take them? They have to deal with them for hours sometimes,” she said.

Mayor Ginther said the city is continuing to invest in new police recruit classes.

“It’s about using our resources differently and then enhancing just the traditional calls for service in our neighborhoods, with this proactive and engaging community policing effort.”

But, Ofc. Huffman said he believes police are being asked to do more with less, which doesn’t allow for much time to be spent on looking for drug dealers.

“We’re reactive at this point,” he said. “We’re not really proactive.”

Chief Jacobs said the number of officers that are expected to be hired next year will maybe cover spots left open from retirements. She also said the number of officers on the force isn’t keeping pace with population growth.

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