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11 Investigates Exclusive: More than 100 police officers leave Pittsburgh force

PITTSBURGH — It’s been a record-setting year for the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.

11 Investigates has learned that by the end of next week, the city will lose more police officers than ever before.

With retirements and resignations, the number is expected to surpass the century mark.

Police officers’ union president Bob Swartzwelder has been sounding the alarm for at least two years when he spoke with Chief Investigator Rick Earle.

Earle: Is it a crisis?

Swartzwelder: An absolute crisis.

Chief Larry Scirotto has disputed that and doesn’t believe the department is in a manpower crisis.

The force has now dropped down to approximately 760 officers, but if officers out for injuries, parental leave, and disability are included, the number is under 700.

Just five years ago, under the Peduto administration, there were more than 1,000 officers.

Chief Scirotto has proposed several changes to deal with the declining numbers, including eliminating the overnight desk sergeant at all six zone departments.

That means anyone who shows up at any of the departments will now have to use a special call box to notify police during hours that the department is not staffed.

But with 44 recruits set to come on board and three academy classes scheduled for next year, the chief says he’s not worried.

He spoke with Earle about the staffing issues a couple of months ago.

Earle: You feel pretty confident about the direction the department is heading in terms of manpower?

Scirotto: Very confident, very confident.

The police union has also expressed staffing concerns about security and safety for big events like First Night, the annual New Year’s Eve celebration in the city.

Sources said to appropriately staff the upcoming First Nigh the chief wanted to cancel all pass days, so every officer is available to work.

The union argued that there’s no need to do that especially since the police staffing study earlier this year found that the department has too many patrol officers.

“There’s no need to hold people over. There’s no need to cancel their days off, and you have plenty of staffing to run your events,” Swartzwelder said with an air of sarcasm.

The chief was quick to point out that he doesn’t agree with some of the findings in that staffing study.

The union has accused the chief of using it, when it benefits him, and disregarding it when it doesn’t.

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