Dennison struggling with police staffing; mayor says residents remain protected
DENNISON (WJER) (Feb. 23, 2023) – The village is among the local communities struggling to recruit and retain police officers.
It had four full-time officers but two quit in recent weeks, leaving just Chief Todd Beeman, K9 handler Josh Newman, and one part-timer. Mayor Greg DiDonato says the chief has one replacement already lined up whose training begins March 1st and is reaching out to past applicants to see if they’re interested in the other opening. He suspects most have taken jobs elsewhere since communities like Dennison can’t pay officers what they’d make in a bigger city or the private sector.
“That’s why we’ve gone from $16 an hour for a regular policeman to $22 an hour. Anybody that’s under $20 right now, you’ve got poaching going on. We also are competing with hospitals now. That’s something we never really used to compete with. You have hospitals now that are paying $26 to $28 an hour.”
DiDonato has been reaching out to other police departments in the area trying to find officers willing to pick up a shift here and there to supplement their paychecks. He says he visited all of the ones within an hour of the village to drop off fliers advertising the position, and some are facing the same predicament.
“New Concord, great example: They should have five and they have three and they have nobody as far as a backup pending to hire. I heard the same thing from Newcomerstown when I was down there.”
DiDonato fears the already slim pool of potential candidates could get even narrower if state and federal lawmakers don’t do more the incentivize law enforcement careers.
“It needs to get serious quick because I’m going to tell you, you’ve got already towns that are probably about 1,500 and under that almost don’t have policemen at all now and are totally relying on the sheriff’s department. They have coverage. They’re gonna pick up a phone and someone’s gonna show up, but they don’t have that regular patrolling.”
Dennison residents still have 24-7 police protection even while the department is short-handed. DiDonato says Beeman and his remaining officers have been working extra hours, and the sheriff’s office is covering the lapses.