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Pittsburgh police chief implementing major changes within the bureau

PITTSBURGH — Channel 11 Chief Investigator Rick Earle has learned that there are major changes coming to the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.

Earle learned of these changes through his multiple law enforcement sources.

He recently sat down with Pittsburgh’s police chief to discuss in detail the proposed changes.

Earle asked Chief Larry Scirotto about the creation of a new squad called the Street Crime Unit. It’s composed of 18 officers and two supervisors.

The unit will respond to all shootings and it will concentrate on hot spots in an effort to stop crimes before they happen.

Scirotto said the unit will rely on data and focus on areas of concern and known individuals with a track record of violence.

“They’re going to be looking for all of those individuals that are engaged in handgun violence, and carrying guns, using data, using intelligence. We know who they are. We would like to be proactive right? The goal is to prevent crime and not be reactive,” Scirotto explained to Earle.

The chief also plans to reallocate patrol resources.

Currently, he said a third of the force is on duty from 3 to 7 a.m. with a light call volume.

“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.

In order to accomplish that goal, Scirotto plans to return to the system of having officers work four, 10-hour days with three shifts.

Those shifts will operate from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., 5 p.m. to 3 a.m., and 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.

On the overnight shift from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m., he plans to eliminate the zone approach.

A reduced number of officers known as night turn will cover calls across the entire city.

They want to be restricted by zones.

The remaining officers will be moved to cover shifts with higher call volumes.

“From about 12 in the afternoon to midnight shows that’s our busiest time and that’s where the majority of our personnel will sit next year,” said Scirotto.

The Chief has also decided to eliminate the burglary squad.

That responsibility will be handled by detectives at the individual zones.

The Chief is also planning to cut the number of full-time SWAT positions from six to three.

SWAT is made up of 54 part-time members from throughout the Pittsburgh Police Bureau.

That decision drew sharp criticism from some officers who said that each full-timer SWAT operator is responsible for critical tactical and operational functions of SWAT.

Earle: Is there a concern that unit will suffer because of these cuts?

Scirotto: I’m not concerned at all.

Scirotto told Earle he’s confident that the remaining three full-time SWAT officers can handle the additional duties.

“My belief is we can reallocate those to impact the organization in a better place and that the three remaining are very are beyond capable of achieving that mission,” said Scirotto.

Scirotto also plans to hire 12 community service aides who will handle lower-priority calls that don’t require an officer, such as parking complaints.

“They’ll look similar to us. Maybe a light blue shirt, still have our patches perhaps, but it will clearly identify them as community services aides,” said Scirotto, who indicated he doesn’t want citizens thinking that it’s the police responding when it’s a community service aide.

Scirotto has faced some pushback.

The police officers’ union has filed a grievance over some of the proposed changes, including the creation of the citywide night turn, claiming that they violate the terms of the current contract.

“Whenever you are reorganizing a department, you have to make some difficult decision and in that as long as I don’t believe I’m impacting the safety for our officers or our community, then I’m confident and comfortable with the decisions of paring down certain units to ensure that we are much more prepared elsewhere to handle the daily demands that the city demand and the city requires,” said Scirotto.

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