Seven men, one woman become new city police officers

2022-06-04 01:39:30 By : Mr. Michael M

CANTON – The city welcomed eight new police officers onto the force Tuesday morning in City Council chambers.

"This is a very, very important and special day in their lives and in the police department's and in the city of Canton's," said Mayor Thomas Bernabei, who administered the oath as each was sworn in.

New Police Chief John Gabbard is equally pleased.

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"The people who we are welcoming onto the Canton Police Department and into the police department family are a diverse group with an exceptional education marked with experience, (some with experience) in the military and experience in other occupations,..." Gabbard said.

And, he said, it's a hiring that will allow the department to maintain programs, such as its outreach program, which enables officers to engage more with the public.

Gabbard provided badges to his new officers - one woman and seven men - before a crowd of about 75 public officials, family and friends. The following new hires bring the department to a staff of 167.

More hires will be needed as three veteran officers are slated to retire over the summer.

At a time when cities nationwide have had a difficult time finding qualified police officers who want the job, Canton has worked to overcome a financial hurdle to recruiting.

Last year, Bernabei and recently-retired Police Chief Jack Angelo cited the pandemic and a competitive hiring environment, noting that four newly hired officers left for the Akron Police Department, where the starting salary is $58,864. Canton's department saw 20 officers leave last year: 10 retired, nine young officers resigned and one officer was fired — bringing the staff total to 159. 

In November, City Council increased the starting pay for police officers to $51,500 a year in an attempt to attract and retain officers. Officers on the job for 13 months will make 21% more than they made last year. While those same officers in 2024 will make 30% more.

Three officers who had left the department earlier last year in search of fatter paychecks elsewhere have returned, the mayor said.

Gabbard said two officers who'd taken jobs at the Akron Police Department and an officer who left to work for the U.S. Border Patrol are back in Canton.

Bernabei and Gabbard said they believe the pay increase has helped with recruitment and retention. Gabbard said the number of candidates has risen.

But how much it has helped is not yet known, Gabbard said.

"I don't think we have had enough time to fully realize the benefit of that raise and our recruitment," he said.

The mayor said he can't say higher salaries are "the" issue, "but it certainly contributes."

"This is a department that will present a never-ending variety of challenges on a daily basis," he told the new recruits, adding that they will have a lot of stories to tell one day. 

Gabbard advised them to remember the day. He recalled the day in 1998 when he was sworn in. His wife was pregnant with their first child and seated in the same council chambers.

"In the 24 years I've been here, my faith has only grown stronger."