Police Pleas for More Staff

Within five years, more than half of the Pittsburgh police department’s 886 sworn officers are eligible to retire. Getting new blood into the City forces is tough, say FOP officials, because of the pay of suburban departments and the fact that some police officers with children don’t want to send them to the Pittsburgh Public Schools (thus the recurring efforts to amend the law to allow City officers to live where they want).

The FOP says it almost never has reached the budgeted amount of 917 officers because of normal turnover and that, in fact, Pittsburgh could be best served with a department of close to 950 officers. Based on Pittsburgh’s population (310k) that higher number would put the employee per 1000 people ratio at 3; add in other police staff and Pittsburgh would far exceed other U.S. cities on staffing.

The City’s CAFR shows that from 2000-2009 total City full time equivalents fell 24%; police fell 23%. The 2009 Act 47 plan shows that on "headcount by bargaining unit" the FOP count fell 1.9% from 2004-2009 while all personnel in all bargaining units fell 9.9% over the same time period.

Facing retirements and budget constraints-along with the realization that Pittsburgh is already high on overall police staffing-there has to be a better way. The Act 47 team made a point of turning non-safety services to civilian employees so that the sworn resources can be better deployed on the streets.

Measuring Pittsburgh’s Financial Performance

Compared to our Benchmark City-an amalgamation of financial data from four U.S. regional hub cities that differ in geographic location, population, square mileage, and political environment-Pittsburgh spends more per resident, taxes more per resident, has more employees per 1000 people, and is far out of line on legacy costs related to pension health, debt load, and workers’ compensation expense.

 

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