11 Investigates: Pittsburgh police overnight staffing to be reduced

PITTSBURGH — Channel 11 has learned that beginning later this month, you won’t be able to speak with a desk officer at any one of the six Pittsburgh police stations from 3 to 7 a.m., and possibly even longer.

Chief Larry Scirotto has eliminated those positions, and given the Commander at each station the option of using a desk officer during other times.

The chief has had call boxes linked to 911 installed at every police station across the city. They are located in building the vestibule and available for public use.

“It’s a shame because when you are outside the police department, you expect and hope somebody is manning the ship there and, you know, in this case, I guess we are going to be without,” said Pittsburgh City Councilman Anthony Coghill, who oversees public safety but was unaware of the change.

Coghill said this is the result of manpower shortages.

In five years, the bureau has gone from more than a thousand officers to under 800.

“Chief Scirotto is doing the best he can with what he has to work with but when what you have to work with is not enough, it’s going to catch up,” Coghill said.

11 Investigates has also learned that on several weekly overnight shifts, as few as 27 officers will cover the entire city.

“When you have 90 separate neighborhoods, the geography of Pittsburgh makes it difficult to get from one part of the town to the other. Yes, that is very alarming,” Coghill said.

Scirotto defended cutting the overnight patrols by nearly half on most nights based on a history of reduced call volume during those times.

“It just doesn’t align mathematically to have that much of our personnel working in that short period of time where we know our call volume just doesn’t support it,” said Scirotto, who was brought in last year.

Scirotto spent a good deal of his career with the Pittsburgh police department before leaving to become the chief in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Officers also say Scirotto has told them not to respond to parking complaints and burglary alarms unless it’s an emergency.

And the chief ultimately wants officers to only handle in-progress emergency calls. Any other calls that don’t pose a threat like vandalism, and harassment would go to the expanded telephone reporting unit.

But that concerns Coghill, who said residents have come to expect a certain level of service from Pittsburgh police.

“When it comes to harassment, when it comes to things of this nature, I feel you better have a police officer and that’s what the public expects and that’s what I expect,” Coghill said.

Scirotto said he’s confident he can implement these changes without compromising the safety of the community and the officers.

Meanwhile, councilman Coghill said the Police bureau has to do a better job of retaining and recruiting officers to bolster the ranks.

The changes will take effect on Feb. 26.

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