11 Investigates: Pittsburgh police chief considering 12-hour shifts

PITTSBURGH — Is Pittsburgh’s police chief already having second thoughts about his new staffing plan?

About a month ago, Chief Larry Scirotto moved officers from eight-hour to 10-hour shifts.

He said he was doing it because that’s what officers told him they wanted.

And he said it would help with officer wellness.

But Channel 11 Chief Investigator Rick Earle learned the chief is now floating a new proposal, and it’s not sitting well with the union.

According to multiple sources inside the department, the chief is now floating the idea of going to 12-hour shifts.

“We went to a four 10-hour work schedule that gives them 52 extra days off a year,” said Chief Scirotto at a news conference in late February, when announcing the move to the four-day work week and a host of other operational changes.

He admitted that some of the changes are in response to the dwindling number of officers.

Five years ago, there were more than 1,000 officers.

Today the department has approximately 740 officers.

Since unveiling the operational changes and the 10-hour shifts, there have been some hiccups.

Because of the staffing reallocations, the Zone 3 police station in the Allentown section of the city closed to the public in the middle of the day on several occasions.

Officers overnight also failed to immediately respond to a burglary alarm at a downtown clothing store and the suspect got away.

And instead of sending an officer to a call from a ride-share driver being assaulted, the call was sent to the telephone reporting unit.

In an email sent to officers, the police union contends that the chief has been talking to officers about the possible move.

Union President Bob Swartzwelder accused the chief of violating the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act by bypassing the union and dealing directly with members.

Swartzwelder also issued a warning to officers about the potential 12-hour shifts, questioning how they would work secondary employment or attend court when they’re limited to 16-hour days.

“You now have seen what happened to the 10-hour shifts you “thought” you were going to work versus what many of you, especially the pm shift, are actually working,” wrote Swartzwelder.

Swartzwelder was alluding to the fact that officers are routinely held over to cover shifts.

And despite a pay raise during the last contract, Swartzwelder took a shot at the city.

“The firefighters will exceed $100,000 base salary or slightly higher by the end of their recently negotiated contract. Does the city intend to match this dollar amount?” Swartzwelder wrote.

Swartzwelder has said that the last raise wasn’t enough to keep officers. So far, that seems to be the case. Last year, a record number of more than 100 officers either resigned or retired.

Approximately nine officers have resigned this year and more are expected to retire in July.

It’s unclear how those 12-hour shifts would work, but officers could work two days one week and then five days the next week.

The public safety department issued a statement concerning the union president’s email to officers.

“The chief of police has the ability to have conversations with officers and gather input. If the chief did, in fact, want to make any changes to the contract then they would, of course, need to go to the union to be bargained and would follow any and all collective bargaining agreement processes,” said a spokesperson for Pittsburgh Public Safety.

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