Target 11 Exclusive: County Executive Fitzgerald weighs in on downtown Pittsburgh patrols

11 News first told you Wednesday that those on-again, off-again downtown county police patrols are now back on again.

It’s been a confusing week if you’re keeping score as those extra patrols were requested a month ago by Mayor Ed Gainey to deal with an uptick in crime and a shortage of city police officers.

Target 11 Investigator Rick Earle spoke exclusively with the county executive about the short pause in the patrols and Earle also has new insight into why there was a sudden and unexpected pause in the plan.

Just a week after ending patrols in downtown Pittsburgh, Allegheny County Police are back on the city streets again.

“I think maybe for a few days they thought they had the full complement and decided you know maybe we’ll utilize the county police,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

After about a month of assisting city police with downtown patrols, county executive Fitzgerald said county police were told they were not longer needed last week, but days after that, in a surprise and sudden reversal, the city recalled county police.

Sources told Target 11 that the city police administration decided to end the county patrols, without consulting with Mayr Gainey.

When he found out the patrols had been terminated, he immediately stepped in and asked the county to return.

Fitzgerald said they were happy to oblige.

“We will be down there a number of weeks, probably a couple of months,” said Fitzgerald.

The mayor had initially requested county police assistance to deal with a rise in crime downtown, coupled with a growing shortage of city police officers.

Many have either left or retired, and there’s been no new academy class in two years.

The force has dropped from the budgeted 900 officers to 811.

A veteran academy class is underway right now, but there are only three cadets in that class.

The city is working right now to launch a new academy class later this year, but they are struggling to find qualified applicants.

County Executive Fitzgerald told Target 11 that it’s not only Allegheny County Police, but Pittsburgh Regional Transit Police, Officers from Point Park and Duquesne Universities as well as private building security working together to patrol downtown.

Fitzgerald said it’s a critical component to getting people to return to downtown.

“We would like people again to see visible law enforcement and security there. making people feel safe and welcoming people into the hub of this region,” said Fitzgerald.

Back in February, the Mayor vowed to beef up the police presence downtown.  He said he would pull officers from different zones to bolster the ranks.

Beginning this week, Target 11 learned that the city police reassigned 12 officers, most of them from Zone Two in the Hill District to the new downtown Public Safety Center.

It’s unclear how the city plans to cover the loss of officers in the Hill District.

The city had hoped to convince 22 officers to relocate to the downtown center but fell far short of that goal.

County Executive Fitzgerald said county police will stay as long as needed.

A spokesperson for Mayor Gainey offered thanks to the county for their “continued support of downtown.”

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