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Youngstown police chief defends OT for officers

Five speakers call for council to adopt cease-fire resolution

YOUNGSTOWN — Police Chief Carl Davis loudly defended his officers regarding the large amount of overtime certain ones received in 2023.

Councilman Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward, said to Davis at a Wednesday council finance committee that constituents ask him if the overtime — which saw 12 police officers make more than $50,000 last year with one getting $139,295.89 — was because of short staffing at the department “or is it because some officers may know how to work the system more than others. I couldn’t give them the answers.”

In response, Davis loudly said: “When you imply that they’re working the system to me that’s calling the officers thieves. My officers are not thieves. They are not working the system. We are short” staffed.

Oliver was quick to tell Davis that the question did not come from him, but from his constituents and he wasn’t implying anything.

Councilwoman Anita Davis, D-6th Ward, who is a retired Youngstown police detective sergeant, said: “Most of these officers are honest. But one reason I got a job is because we did have thieves in the police department. We had burglars. We had police officers who went to prison. We got rid of them. But the point is there is no exception anywhere” where there is “100% honesty. There’s corruption everywhere. But 98% of the time it’s legit. It’s incumbent upon us to make sure that it stays legit.”

The Vindicator reported Jan. 7 about the overtime pay, with 12 police officers making more than $50,000 last year, and that ranking officers — detective sergeants, captains and lieutenants — were the city’s top seven overtime earners in 2023.

At No. 1 was Detective Sgt. Edward Kenney who received $139,295.89 in overtime and worked overtime six or seven days a week and more overtime hours than regular hours.

The police chief said the department’s staffing is at a record low number of officers, 124, and that is causing more overtime.

The department offers overtime to all of its officers, but Carl Davis said the most experienced — and therefore the highest-paid — employees take the extra hours.

The chief said he hopes to hire 11 officers by the end of the month and 25 by the end of this year. The problem, he said, is not enough people are interested in getting into law enforcement and the city police force keeps losing officers rather than gaining them.

Last year, the goal was to hire 11 officers, but that didn’t happen and officers left the department, city Finance Director Kyle Miasek said.

The department hired five officers and lost 14 last year, police Capt. Brad Blackburn said.

The police department’s overtime budget was $2 million and it spent about $2.9 million last year. But the department’s budget for police wages was $8.94 million and ended the year at $8.07 million.

That means the department’s overall spending was in line with its budget, Miasek said.

Anita Davis said she was concerned about officers being effective if they work so many hours of overtime. She said council will further discuss this issue.

One concern she has is the shortage of patrol officers while the number of ranking officers remains the same.

The number of patrol officers dropped from 112 in 2018 to 83 last year while the number of ranking officers remained at 41.

That’s because when a ranking officer leaves, that person is replaced automatically by a patrol officer.

Davis said council will look at possibly reducing the number of ranking officers through attrition.

“There’s a problem with the ratio of too many ranking officers and not enough patrol officers,” she said.

CEASE-FIRE REQUEST

At Wednesday’s council meeting, the legislative body heard from five speakers calling for a cease fire in Gaza.

An armed conflict between Israel and Palestinian groups has been ongoing in and around the Gaza Strip in the Middle East since Oct. 7 when Hamas, a terrorist group, launched a surprise attack on Israel killing more than 1,000 and taking hostages. Hamas said the attack was in response to Israel’s longtime occupation of the West Bank.

Since then, Israel has attacked the Gaza Strip, killing thousands.

Suhad Hadi, president of the Arab-American Community Center of Youngstown, and others called for Youngstown council to call for a permanent cease-fire Wednesday.

Tala Alsharif, head of Youngstown State University’s Students for Justice in Palestine organization, said she doesn’t feel safe on campus. Other students, she said, have twisted her words and falsely accused her of being a foreign agent.

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