CLEVELAND (WJW) – A gap in the Columbus police force caused by a $200,000 retirement buyout and other personnel resigning had officers with the department making the two-hour drive up north to try and find new talent in Cleveland. 

“We’re looking at 50 lateral officers and these are people already OPOTA certified, and then we’re actually trying to hire 170 new officers to join the department as well,” said Recruiting Officer Aissha Broussard. 

Setting up in the downtown Cleveland Public Library, the department’s main incentive is a starting salary of roughly $67,000 for those with less than five years of experience and about $89,000 for more than five years of experience.

“If somebody is ready to leave or just kind of explore something else different, we’re just letting them know this is what we have… If you’re interested, please come and join,” said Broussard.

The Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association says the highest pay officers can make is about $67,000.

On FOX 8 Thursday morning, Mayor Justin Bibb sat down with Wayne Dawson to talk about the Columbus recruitment efforts. 

“I’ve got to say I wasn’t happy about that. I had a really frank conversation yesterday with the Mayor of Columbus because us big-city mayors across the state have to work together to make our cities safe.”

Bibb says Mayor Andrew Ginther understood his frustration and says it’s a tough climate right now for cities across the state to attract and retain good quality officers.

“This has been a problem in Cleveland for a long time. We are currently in the middle of negotiations with our police union and I don’t want to get ahead of those negotiations, but know this. My administration understands the importance of having a competitive department that pays well that supports law enforcement.”

The FOX 8 I-Team initially reported the Cleveland Police Department has lost roughly 240 officers.

Back in November, the Phoenix Police Department also tried their sales pitch on Cleveland’s officers. 

“We cannot afford to lose anybody and we have to recruit,” said Police Union President Jeff Follmer.

He says Issue 24, a charter amendment voters passed back in November to create a new civilian police commission that could discipline officers, is a factor in losing officers, but wages and morale are the main issues.

“It’s one of those things that it’s going to come down to our contract negotiations. There’s not much I can say. It’s going to come down to these wages. If we can get somewhere competitive with everybody else, these guys will stay.”

The Columbus department has been spreading the word online and says they have already gotten applications from Cleveland officers.

Follmer says they’ve also lost some officers to Cleveland suburb departments and the sheriff’s office which pays more.