TOLEDO, Ohio — The Toledo Police Department will start 2021 with a staffing deficit.
The department averages 18 to 20 retirements each year, but in 2020, they've had 31 retirements, with four, if not more, expected in early January.
A huge recruiting effort is underway, but it's been difficult to draw people in.
A spokesperson for the department reported officers are retiring early due to numerous different reasons coupled with the coronavirus pandemic. Officers are exposed and quarantined daily and now that they're not included in the first round of first responders receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, the department is expecting more exposures.
There are currently 602 sworn officers working and they'll soon have 627 officers counting the 25 cadets in their academy.
But it's not enough to make up for the deficit.
For a city of Toledo's size and crime rate, Chief George Kral has said he would like to see up to 720 officers on the force, but recruiting hasn't been easy.
"Law enforcement is front and center in the global stage and that coupled with the realization that you won't come home to your family at night. I think Officer Dia's death made that clear to a lot of people," said Lt. Kellie Lenhardt, a spokesperson with the police department.
Budgetary constraints and the coronavirus pandemic haven't made it easier either but the department has made a huge recruiting push.
With gun violence at an all-time high, manpower is critical according to TPD.
"The brutal truth is that we have to have officers wearing the uniform, in the car and patrolling the streets. That's where we're most needed. So if manpower isn't where it needs to be, then we'll have to pull from specialized units," Lt. Lenhardt said.