Democratic Cleveland mayor laid off police officers while women were locked in basement

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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Democratic Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson laid off 321 city workers, including 123 active or future police officers, in 2011 while Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight and Berry’s daughter were held in captivity in a west side Cleveland home.

More than half of Jackson’s 2011 layoffs, which he blamed on state budget cuts, came from the police and fire departments. Jackson also made cuts in street repairs and decided to cut staff at public playgrounds not attached to recreation centers, thus leaving 20 Cleveland playgrounds “unattended.”

Berry was rescued after placing a 911 call Monday in which she begged police to come to the house, which included ropes and chains and had multiple padlocked areas. “I’m Amanda Berry, I’ve been on the news for the last 10 years,” Berry told police.

Multiple neighbors claimed that they called Cleveland police over the years to report “suspicious activity” in the home, but police denied those claims.

“We have no record of those calls coming in over the last ten years,” said Michael McGrath, Cleveland’s police chief. McGarth was appointed by Jane Campbell, Jackson’s Democratic predecessor, who laid off more than 250 police officers in 2003. When he took office in 2006, Jackson was criticized for keeping McGarth in the position.

But Cleveland police responded to the house on two occasions, Jackson said Tuesday.

Jackson blamed the cuts on then-new Republican Ohio governor John Kasich for cutting $35.7 million in state aid to the city.

Jackson proposed to hire 25 police officers, at a cost of $1.7 million, with his $1.3 billion budget proposal in February 2013. The new officers were reportedly intended to fight “gang-related crime” in areas with high gun violence.

Jackson said in February that the most common complaint among his constituents is the number of vacant houses in the city.

The Cleveland police force was racked with turmoil prior to the current controversy surrounding the kidnapping case.

The president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association called for police chief McGrath’s resignation in February, saying that the union had lost confidence in McGrath after his much-criticized investigation into a November 2012 high-speed chase that resulted with two suspects being shot and killed in East Cleveland.

Jackson expressed full confidence in McGrath in February.

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Patrick Howley