Hundreds of Pittsburgh police officers considering retiring, leaving job

PITTSBURGH — Inside the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #1, color-coded boards break down the number of officers on the job with the City of Pittsburgh. Purple shows the vacancies.

“The attrition rate is frightening to the citizens of the city of Pittsburgh as a matter of public safety, that’s what concerns me,” said Bob Swartzwelder who is FOP Lodge #1 President.

The number of officers who have already retired or resigned just this year?

“257 eligible to retire in the morning and I’m always concerned they don’t have anyone in the pipeline as recruits because to replace that 257 it will take you 18 months to do so to get them fully in the field. So you lose 5 to 10 percent of that number and you are going to be in a policing crisis,” Swartzwelder said.

Now throw in the city’s vaccine mandate and Swartzwelder believes it could happen, but that’s just retirements. City statistics show 40 percent of the force is unvaccinated so some officers could just quit.

“Younger police officers understand they have more options and they joined for the same reason I joined 30 years ago. They want to serve, now you are making it intendable for them to serve so they are going to take their talents somewhere else,” Swartzwelder said.

To keep its force, the FOP is filing a grievance with the city since there were no prior discussions about a mandate. Channel 11 asked the mayor why.

“We would have opened the door to making it a part of the collective bargaining agreement,” said Mayor Bill Peduto.

Outside politics, Swartzwelder said his concerns fall to the streets with zero recruits in the pipeline.

“It’s a disaster waiting to happen. I even say if 10 to 20 percent leave, you already had 74 left based on the October numbers, now you have over a 100 that’s an entire police zone depleted,” Swartzwelder said.

As for the city’s stance, the mayor said being unvaccinated isn’t going to be an automatic termination.

“If you are not vaccinated, what is it that you can do? Is it the finance department, planning or within the fire department? It’s a realistic look,” Peduto said.

The FOP said the mayor has said he could move officers who are not vaccinated to desk jobs, but they still have the same concern of who will staff the streets.