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Pittsburgh police officers leaving at twice the rate they're being hired

| Monday, July 20, 2015, 5:15 p.m.

Pittsburgh police officers are leaving at about twice the rate they're being hired so far in 2015.

Fifty officers have retired or resigned this year as of Monday, and 24 recruits are expected to earn permanent assignments by the end of the year, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 1 President Howard McQuillan said Monday during a public meeting with Pittsburgh City Council members.

The next class of recruits will enter the training academy in August.

McQuillan offered the numbers during a meeting of emergency administrators that included fire Chief Darryl Jones, firefighter's union president Ralph Sicuro and police Chief Cameron McLay. Councilwoman Darlene Harris arranged the meeting to discuss the “coming storm” of staffing issues.

McLay said the force has 838 officers, the lowest number in about a decade. The city budgeted to have 892 officers this year.

“We all agree we've been in a hiring bubble, and we've all known for a while that bubble was going to burst,” he said. “It's part of the natural life cycle: When you have a mass hiring, 20 years later there will be mass retirement.”

The officers brought on during a hiring boom in the 1990s are reaching retirement age , he said.

McLay said he has resisted asking to hire more officers until now, moving some from administrative positions back onto the streets.

“I've been robbing Peter to pay Paul,” he said.

McLay advocated for a staffing study that would examine various issues, including officer workload.

McQuillan said if all the officers eligible to take retirement did so, the department would lose up to 90 of 137 officers in the investigations division; 62 of 85 in major crimes; 26 of 50 in narcotics and vice; 12 of 19 in the chief's office; 214 of 608 in the operations division; and all six assistant chiefs.

Only two of 10 commanders are not eligible for retirement.

McQuillan said the lagging recruitment rate is partly the result of not recruiting on a rolling basis and the uncertainty surrounding salary and benefit levels during continuing labor union contract negotiations.

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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