11 Investigates Exclusive: Pittsburgh police officers set resignations record

PITTSBURGH — 11 Investigates has learned that more Pittsburgh police officers have resigned this year than any other year during the past decade.

Forty-five officers have resigned so far.

That number does not include retirements.

The resignations are taking place during a year when the administration gave officers a big pay raise in hopes of keeping them from leaving.

“Forty-five of them at one time in this term, that’s sad. It’s disturbing,” executive director of the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board Beth Pittinger said.

Pittinger believes the high number of resignations is a sign of a much deeper problem, especially since the big pay raise officer got earlier this year.

“That tells me we have a real serious morale problem, and I’m not sure what’s influencing all that because they did end up with a very good contract,” Pittinger said.

Pittinger suggested changes implemented by the chief, including controversial new starting times that some officers contend aren’t conducive to work-life balance, may be leading to the departures.

In addition to the 45 resignations, 26 officers have retired this year, one died and 23 are set to retire soon for a total of 95 departures.

With only 46 recruits in two academy classes this year, resignations and retirements continue to outpace hirings.

In a statement to 11 Investigates, Pittsburgh Police Union President Bob Swartzwelder, who’s sounded the staffing alarm for years, said “….as long as its non-competitive salary and benefits package continues, the city police numbers will continue to dwindle to an unsustainable level, resulting in business and citizens leaving the city.”

Swartzwelder has said some officers are leaving for higher-paying and less stressful jobs at suburban departments, where they can expect to start with six-figure salaries.

The city budgeted for 850 officers next year but only has 770 right now, down from more than 1,000 just five years ago, under the Peduto administration.

Earle questioned City Council President Theresa Kail Smith about the latest departures.

Kail-Smith: We’re paying more than we have in years for police officers.

Earle: And you still can’t hold them?

Kail-Smith: And we still can’t hold them.

Kail-Smith said she would like to hear from the officers who are leaving to see if anything can be done to convince them to stay.

“We need to find out why that is,  and what we can do to change it,” said Kail Smith.

Earle reached out to the Mayor’s office and the Department of Public Safety.

The mayor’s office had not responded to our request at the time this article was published.

Public Safety sent Earle an email about the resignations.

“While the Bureau’s ultimate goal is always to retain our officers as they are some of the most extensively trained in the country, those who have resigned this year have done so for a multitude of reasons that don’t always center around remuneration.  Some have left for law enforcement positions in neighboring jurisdictions or in those in other states where family resides, some went on to pursue higher education, others left the profession due to family obligations, and some have started their own businesses. As (Police) Chief (Larry) Scirotto outlined during the Budget Hearing last week, the two Academy classes currently in place and the three planned for next year will help bolster the Bureau’s ranks moving forward,” said Public Information Officer Cara Cruz.

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