Pittsburgh police labor official: Staffing recommendations went unheeded
Pittsburgh's state-appointed financial overseers commissioned a study of police staffing eight years ago and mentioned its recommendations in a 2009 recovery plan but neither the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority nor the mayor's office followed up, a police labor official said Thursday.
The 2005 study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, commissioned by the ICA, recommended increasing the number of Pittsburgh police supervisors on the street and putting more civilians to work in the police bureau, said Officer Bob Swartzwelder of the Fraternal Order of Police Labor Management Committee.
“You have to have the proper supervision,” Swartzwelder said. “They didn't enforce this.”
ICA Executive Director Henry Sciortino said the body can't tell the city how to run its police force.
“We rely heavily on our partnership with the city to focus on the execution of good police tactics and strategies and the things that surround law enforcement,” Sciortino said.
The city mentioned the study and its emphasis on putting civilians into administrative jobs to free up officers in the amended recovery plan. But it's unclear whether the city carried out the recommendations.
Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, said the office would not comment.
Deputy Police Chief Paul Donaldson refused to answer questions about staffing ratios and moving civilians into police administrative roles.
The issue surfaced in City Council chambers this week when Councilman Patrick Dowd of Highland Park said on-street supervisors direct shift operations and play a critical role in teaching young officers how to be good cops.
Two recent high-profile incidents involving Pittsburgh police led to internal investigations. Two officers did not enter a woman's home when she called 911 for help on Dec. 31; officers found her dead in the home the next day. On Jan. 13, five off-duty officers opened fire on a motorist fleeing Homestead along busy East Carson Street in the South Side as the bars emptied.
Dowd said the city should hire more officers and sergeants or reorganize so that sergeants move from desk jobs into the field.
“They're officers with experience and the first-line supervisors, so they're really sort of watching the team and what's going on during a shift,” Dowd said. “They really help (teach) how to do the business of policing properly. They install all the values of good policing.”
Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith, council's public safety committee chair, accused Dowd of playing politics by raising the issue during an election year.
The FOP supports Dowd's assertion that the department needs changes, Swartzwelder said.
“In order to maintain fiscal responsibility, the FOP endorses police officers doing police work and civilians doing administrative work,” Swartzwelder said.
Dowd cited Zone 5 in the East End, where most violent crime in the city occurs, as a particular area needing more supervision. Dowd's District 7 includes East End neighborhoods that Zone 5 officers patrol.
The city has seven sergeants in Zone 5 and Zone 2. Ravenstahl decides when to make promotions.
“We've waited for months and months and months for there to be an additional eighth sergeant back in Zone 5,” Dowd said. “I think there should be more than eight, but eight is better than seven. It's really on the mayor. Do you want seven sergeants or eight? The mayor hasn't taken a stand on that.”
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.
- Man robbed, shot in East Liberty
- Corbett, Wolf resort to sticks, stones to attract attention
- Project 15206 finds goals for rain
- Ferrante trial: Cyanide order form in plain sight
- Komen acceptance of drilling-linked money raises ire
- Curry Hollow Shopping Center has buyer
- Public servants honored in Pittsburgh for extraordinary responses
- Wilkinsburg couple arrested after baby girl dies following beating
- Report linking field surface to cancer elicits Mt. Lebanon protest
- Port Authority steps closer to linking Oakland and Downtown, makes switch from Highmark to Aetna
- State’s ‘public-private’ transportation deal will replace 53 bridges in Allegheny County