PITTSBURGH — As the number of Pittsburgh Police officers continues to decline, we’ve learned about a shocking example of the critical impact of this manpower shortage.
Channel 11′s Rick Earle has learned that last Saturday night only two officers showed up to work in Zone 5 in the East End. On a typical shift, 10 to 15 officers would patrol the East End neighborhoods, from Homewood to East Liberty to Highland Park.
It’s unclear why so many officers called off, but sources said many are suffering from burnout after being forced to work overtime.
Zone 5 in the East End is one of the most violent areas in the city, with the most shootings, according to the latest annual police report.
According to an internal email obtained by Channel 11, “Zone five had multiple call-offs and only had two night-turn officers reporting for duty.”
Earle questioned new Police Chief Larry Scirotto about the Saturday night shortage in Zone 5.
Earle: You are looking at two cops for zone five?
Chief Scirotto: We are one Bureau, and in that, we have to utilize all the assets of the Bureau.
To deal with the call-offs last weekend, the duty commander that night sent three units from other zones, combined zones four and five, and put non-priority calls, like theft reports, on hold.
And it didn’t go unnoticed by residents.
One writing on Facebook and reaching out to both the Mayor and Public Safety director.
“Are you addressing this shortage of officers? You are putting your citizens at risk by not addressing this issue,” wrote the resident.
But Scirotto told Earle that he has an immediate plan to deal with the manpower problem.
Officers now in support roles, like the 20 answering phones at stations, will be reassigned to the streets on patrol.
“That’s our most important function and we have to prioritize that,” said Scirotto.
In the meantime, some officers told Earle they are being forced to work extraordinary amounts of overtime that are leading to more problems.
An officer’s wife told Channel 11 that her husband worked 21 hours of overtime in one week, writing in an email, “...burnout is a huge problem. It seems there is a disconnect between leadership and the officers. "
Earle took her concerns directly to the new police chief.
Earle: It seems as if there’s a disconnect between leadership and the officers. Officers are being mandated to work overtime in zones they have not even signed up to work. Just listen to the scanner. Her concerns.
Scirotto: And I stay connected. That’s my commitment to our officers, that there is no disconnect from my office to the line officers.
In addition to reallocating resources to ease the burden on patrol, two new academy classes are set for later this year.
Scirotto has also said he plans to reduce the response to non-priority calls. He said some, like parking complaints, could be handled by other departments.
But with more officers continuing to retire or resign, the departures will still outpace new hires.
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