PITTSBURGH — “If we are not diverse, we don’t grow,” said Mayor Ed Gainey, during his recent State of the City Address.
The Mayor has spoken a lot about diversity ever since taking office as the city’s first African American Mayor.
While he has clearly made strides in some city departments, the statistics from the Pittsburgh Police Bureau tell a much different story.
The Bureau appears to be regressing when it comes to diversity.
Channel 11 Chief Investigative Reporter Rick Earle has been crunching the numbers and he’s uncovered some startling new details about what appears to be a growing lack of diversity in the police bureau.
Lieutenant Wanda Duncan was sworn in as a new Pittsburgh Police Commander during a ceremony at the City-County Building just last month.
Duncan now has the distinction of being the only African American on the bureau’s command staff.
Earle spoke with Tim Stevens, the Chair of the Black Political Empowerment Association.
“It’s troubling obviously as an organization that has fought for representation, both when I was with the NAACP and as chair of B-Pep (Black Political Empowerment Association) for years, trying to get out department diversified, our Pittsburgh Bureau of Police diversified. I’m saddened by that,” said Stevens.
For years Stevens has worked with city administrations in an effort to improve diversity on the police force in a city that is 23% black.
“My concern is that African Americans need to see people of color in leadership, not just a chief but throughout the department. Our kids need to see black people in leadership, brown people in leadership,” said Stevens.
But the bureau is clearly seeing more white now.
While Mayor Peduto had nine white men on his command staff and four blacks, Mayor Gainey, the city’s first African-American mayor, now has 14 white men and only one African American.
The bureau of 770 members right now.
Earle spoke with Pittsburgh Police Chief Larry Scirotto.
Earle: The command staff has become less diverse when it comes to African Americans. How did that happen?
Scirotto: I guess, less diverse, it’s just different in the moment. right.
Earle: Well you went from nine white men to 13 or 14 white men?
Scirotto: Yeah and I think you have an obligation to one, promote the best that you have available, and in that I think that my assistant chiefs, for example, I think the three that I’ve chosen for selection are the best that the bureau has to offer.
Before returning to Pittsburgh, Scirotto, who is biracial, served as the Chief of Police in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
But six months into the job, he was fired after allegations of promoting minorities over more qualified candidates.
He denies the accusation and has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city of Fort Lauderdale.
Earle: Are you being overly cautious because of what you were accused of in Fort Lauderdale?
Scirotto: No, not at all, and in that again promoting the most qualified.
Scirotto added that there are also not a lot of minority candidates in the ranks to pick from.
And he’s right.
In fact, according to the Bureau’s annual reports, the number of black officers on the force has been declining for a decade.
In 2013, there were 117 black officers and in 2022 that number dropped to 100. In a city with an African-American population of 23%, the police bureau last year was at 12%.
Earle also spoke with Mayor Gainey, who has long been a proponent of diversity in the police force.
Earle: This has been a big issue for you, diversify, diversify and now we’re going backwards?
Gainey: Here’s what I know about that, here’s what I will tell you, we will diversify, but it’s going to take time.
Mayor Gainey, who hired the first African-American to run Emergency Medical Services, admits there’s work to be done in the police bureau, but says he’s confident his new chief is the right man to accomplish that task.
“We got an African-American Chief of Police. Right there, he gives you an opportunity to put his program together and recruit more minorities. That’s our goal is to recruit. We want our police force to be reflective of what the city looks like,” said Gainey.
But they are not off to a great start.
The Mayor’s first academy class of 27 recruits only has one African-American and one biracial recruit.
And the new academy class of 20 that began this month doesn’t have any African-Americans, and only one biracial candidate.
“I know the chief from his comments is committed to the goal, but at what point do you have to look at the reality? The reality at this moment is not a good reality and it needs to change moving forward,” said Stevens.
The Police Bureau has also lost women from the command staff.
Under Peduto, there were five women in the command staff. Today, there are only two.
Chief Scirotto said not to judge him by what it looks like now, but to evaluate the department when he leaves.
He promises that it will be much more diverse by that time.
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