PITTSBURGH — Mayor Ed Gainey’s proposed 2024 budget, released last week, caused quite a stir among Pittsburgh police officers over the weekend.
A number of officers reached out to Channel 11′s Chief Investigative Reporter Rick Earle, expressing concern about the number of budgeted officers going from 900 this year to 849 next year.
The proposal sent shockwaves through the police bureau. Some officers told Channel 11 they believe this is an effort to defund police.
In search of answers, Earle went to the Mayor’s office today and spoke with Deputy Mayor Jake Pawlak, who denied the accusations.
“No. The compliment of officers is set in code at 900 and we intend that to stay at 900,” Pawlak said.
Pawlak said it’s more of a numbers game and an accounting issue.
Currently, the department has 777 officers — well under the budgeted 900 — mainly because of retirements and resignations. Also, there was no new academy class for a couple of years. A new academy class just began this year.
Pawlak said three academy classes are set for next year, and two more for 2025. He said that should help bolster the ranks.
But even with those new classes, Pawlak said there’s no way that the department will get to 900 officers next year. In fact, he said it may take a couple of years to get to that number. But, he reiterated that 900 is the goal.
He said the 849 budgeted for next year is actually a typo and the real number is 850. He said that is a much more realistic goal than 900.
Pawlak says he understands why some officers were concerned when they saw the budget.
“I can because they are not seeing the resolution that will fix the number at 900. This is more on the accounting side. We know that even as we have a target of 900, it will take a couple of cycles of classes in order to get the number to that point,” Pawlak said.
And Pawlak said the administration is committed to bolstering the numbers to deal with scheduling and overtime issues. As a sign of that commitment, he pointed to the hefty pay raises the administration agreed to during the contract negotiations this year.
Pawlak said the hope is that the increase in pay with attract more candidates and help retain officers already on the force.
“We’re really proud in what we accomplished with the union contract in making officer pay competitive so that we can attract new officers into those classes I mentioned earlier as well as retain the officers we already have,” Pawlak said, who added that the administration plans to purchase 60 new police cars next year as well.
Some officers said they were disappointed and they believe the administration should have just left the 900 officers in the budget.
They said once they get rid of that money, it may be harder to bring back. And they said it’s oftentimes a matter of optics.
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