“These are men and women who ... are willing to put their lives in danger for total strangers,” he said.
As of May 24, the Dayton Police Department had 332 sworn officers, which is down from 354 at the end of 2021.
The police department on average tries to have at least 365 officers on the force.
So far this year, 23 officers have retired or resigned, which is two more than in all of 2021 and six more than in all of 2020, according to department data.
No more than 22 officers have left the department in any full year since at least 2015, the data show.
Some officers are retiring, and others are leaving the profession for another career field, Afzal said, but the department also is losing officers to other police agencies.
Officers who leave often accept jobs in suburban communities across the region, some of whom offer higher compensation and have fewer critical incidents that officers must respond to, Afzal said.
Afzal said he agrees that police with urban departments also may face more critical scrutiny than officers with other types of departments, and he knows some Dayton officers feel the good work they do day in and day out is not acknowledged.
The community should be concerned about losing a large amount of people in professions where they are called to serve, protect and even educate, said Gerald Parker Jr., a Montgomery County Common Pleas Court judge who was co-lead of the Dayton police reform committee focused on recruitment and promotion.
Dayton’s police reform efforts led to the creation a new unit focused on recruiting, as well as new policies and recommendations on how to increase interest in Dayton police jobs, with special attention given to boosting diversity.
Parker said he is confident the police department is doing all it can to improve officer retention and strengthen the recruiting process.
But today’s climate is an issue, Parker said, and young people don’t seem to have careers in law enforcement anywhere near the top of their future job wish lists.
“Personally, I have always been an advocate for continually educating and even training our youth about different professions, such as a police officer, both early and often,” Parker said. ”It is the most effective way to sell the idea of joining the police force and encourage it in the future.”
Dayton police officers received lots of gratitude, support and praise after the KKK-affiliated hate group rally, the Memorial Day tornadoes and the Oregon District shooting, all of which took place in 2019, said police Sgt. Kyle Thomas, who is the president of the Dayton Fraternal Order of Police, the police union.
But the death of George Floyd in Minnesota the following year led to a major shift in the climate, he said, and many Dayton police officers no longer feel supported.
The Dayton Police Department is now one of the lowest-paying police agencies in Montgomery County, Thomas said, and other departments are luring seasoned officers away by offering better wages and benefits and sometimes a more welcoming environment.
“The solution is difficult, because this is a multi-pronged problem and it’s taken years to get to where we’re at,” Thomas said.
Police want more support from local leaders, and the city should evaluate police wages and benefits because Dayton went from having some of the highest compensation levels to having some of lowest, Thomas said.
Afzal said the police department is hiring, and applications from potential recruits will be accepted through July 31.
The current police recruit class (the 111th) is expected to graduate 25 people in June, and the next one is scheduled to start this summer. Officials hope that class will seat close to 30.
“Come join us,” he said. “We have openings.”
Afzal said he would like the city to convene two police academies per year, instead of just one, to help with staffing.
He also supports allowing police officers from other Ohio police agencies to join the department without going through the full academy, and instead doing a shorter training program.
The police academy training program generally lasts six months.
Rev. Dr. David Fox, a member of the recruitment police reform committee, said he thinks officers feel unappreciated and are pursuing employment opportunities at other departments.
Fox said he fears the police force is understaffed, which places a greater work load on officers.
But Fox said Chief Azfal’s proposals for two police academies per year and lateral transfers will be “game changers.”
The recruitment website is www.joindaytonpd.com. That website lists the starting salary for an officer who completes the police academy at $60,112.