City police ranks 'horrendously low'; 22 recruits join the force
By Margaret Harding
Published: Friday, July 12, 2013, 10:23 p.m.
Newly made Pittsburgh police recruits pledged to add strength to the bureau, but the 22-member class isn't enough to fill openings from departures this year.
They occur at a time when the officers in the bureau are subject to added job stress from an ongoing federal investigation that led to the indictment of former Chief Nate Harper on theft charges and stained the careers of other employees at police headquarters.
“There are a lot of senior officers leaving,” Officer Bobbie Bertalan told the crowd during the recruit graduation ceremony on Friday at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in Highland Park. “We will make a difference.”
At least 36 city officers have resigned or retired, up from the 35 who left the force in 2012, according to police pension office figures.
“The manpower in the zones is horrendously low,” said Sgt. Michael LaPorte, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1. “Officers are forced to work overtime. They're exhausted. The stress level ... it's making them want to leave.”
The police union for years has warned police and city officials that the number of officers eligible to retire is dangerously high. This year, 294 in the 875-member force are eligible to retire, according to the department's 2012 annual report.
That figure grows to 338 next year and 489 in 2015, according to projections from the 2011 report.
“We believe it was obvious the storm was on the horizon,” LaPorte said. “The storm is on our doorstep. We can't churn out enough officers quickly enough for the exodus.”
Acting police Chief Regina McDonald said the new officers will help alleviate manpower shortages among street patrols. The class started in August with 41 members, including 12 recruits with law enforcement experience who graduated early.
Four recruits have not completed their training. At least one was terminated and others left, McDonald said.
Many of the officers will begin their careers in Zone 2 in the Hill District and Zone 5 in Highland Park, which have the most vacancies, she said.
“It's a step in the right direction,” McDonald said. “There's a class in the academy now, and we're working to get another class ready to start in March.”
A class with 31 recruits began at the training academy in April. Six of those recruits have police experience and are in field training with patrols, Lt. Jennifer Ford said. It takes a typical recruit class about 10 months of classes and field training before members are sworn in as full officers, McDonald said.
“It does take a long time, but it takes time to prepare officers to face the challenges,” she said.
Deputy police Chief Paul Donaldson cautioned the new officers against immediately seeking out a position with a suburban department. Several officers, citing better pay and school districts, left the city for jobs in Monroeville, Ross, McCandless and other departments in recent years.
“It saddens me,” Donaldson said. “I know some of you are thinking of taking the training and applying it somewhere else. It's not always better. The grass is not always greener.”
Margaret Harding is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pitt’s Donald sweeps Outland, Bednarik awards, named All-American
- Penguins notebook: Popularity with female fans brings test event to Consol
- NFL notebook: Bears QB Cutler to return Sunday vs. Cleveland
- Treat cyber schools fairly
- Westmoreland County school children could use some more ‘Lunch Buddies’
- Plenty of gifts in store at holiday jazz concert
- District college notes: Hempfield grad earns NAIA Award
- The ObamaCare fight: It’s far from over
- Industrial past inspires Fairmont’s ‘Garden of Titans’ holiday tree
- Fashion FYI: Trunk shows opening up in Pittsburgh
- Concert promoter’s book shares 40 years of music memories, trade secrets, celeb antics