COLUMBUS, Ohio — During his State of the City address, Mayor Andrew Ginther praised how lateral transfers are bringing new police officers to Columbus.
“Another viable pipeline for welcoming new talent. At our current rate, we'll have more officers next year than ever before in our city's history,” Ginther said.
But is the program working as planned? CrimeTracker 10 found that some of the new officers are no longer with the department.
The city was hoping to have 50 graduate its first-ever Columbus Police lateral transfer class in October. Eleven went through the program, 10 graduated.
Through public records request, 10TV obtained the resignation letters and internal emails discussing the program and the new transfers.
One officer left because of a family situation. One admitted to being scared while going on calls. Police supervisors had concerns about another officer's knowledge of crimes and willingness to respond.
Division leaders took notes from a focus group about the program. They found a "chaotic hiring process" in which one recruit said, "I wouldn't be here if full details were explained" and that they "would not have applied, knowing what they know now."
Another lateral transfer said, "I expected hiccups since it is a new program, but the drama and attitude towards our class was unacceptable."
In an interview last year, Columbus Public Safety Director Robert Clark spoke highly of the new program.
“I think for the first time conducting the lateral transfer process, I think it went exceptionally well. There are some things that we reviewed and want to do better,” Clark said.
In the last five weeks, after 10TV obtained the exit interviews, Clark's office says he has not been available for an interview.
When asked about lateral transfers, Ginther said the following:
“I think anytime we can add police officers to our community, as you know, by the end of next year we will have more police officers on the street than ever before in the city's history. I think we ought to be doing everything we can, whether lateral transfers or going through the traditional process, we need more officers."
Rev. Tim Ahrens, who is with the Area Religious Commissioners which pushes for police reform, said it is a great concern and it should send a message to leaders that nearly a third of the new lateral transfers have already left the division.
“You have to ask yourself, what is going on here? My belief is something is going on within the system that is causing them to say, ‘I can't work here,’” Ahrens said.
Ahrens says the city should look at other departments that have succeeded with lateral transfers.
The second lateral transfer class was scheduled for January. That class has been pushed back to August. So far, there are 44 applications for that class.