(The Center Square) – The city of Pittsburgh has slashed its police force at a time when staffing levels have been debated over how many officers are needed.
The City Council approved the 2024 budget this month, which called for a reduction in police staffing.
The mayor’s 2024 operating budget released in November called for cutting 50 positions from the police department. There would be 26 police officers cut while higher ranking positions remain relatively untouched. Of the 151 full-time jobs budgeted for the ranks of sergeant and above, just one FTE was removed.
The budget reductions are aligned with a consultant’s review of the police department’s workforce.
The consultant analyzed the police department’s workforce in 2022 and released its report in July 2023.
The consultant stated that patrol staffing was excessive.
“PBP [Pittsburgh Bureau of Police} patrol staffing is excessively high – far beyond the point at which there is appreciable value gained from additional coverage,” the report stated.
The consultants recommended moving 45 patrol officers to a community resource program that engages the residents.
“The patrol findings are particularly stark, which demonstrate excessively high staffing levels relative to need and risk, and that resources can be shifted to other pressing needs without sacrificing the level of service provided to the community,” the consultant’s report stated. “PBP has a rare, if not unique, opportunity to achieve a community-centric level of service that other police agencies do not have the resources to accomplish.”
Media reports have stated that the department has had trouble filling open police positions for the past couple years.
The reduction in the police force comes at a time when police enforcement is at an all-time low, according to city reports. The reduction in Pittsburgh is mirroring a national trend of fewer arrests and traffic stops.
Arrests in the city have dropped from 18,541 in 2013 to 6,710 in 2022. Traffic stops have also dropped, going from 28,894 in 2013 to a record-low 6,883 in 2022.
Spending on the police department has increased over the past seven years. The city spent $98.5 million on policing in 2017 and that increased to a projected $123.2 million in 2024. That’s not even a 1% increase once adjusted for inflation.
Homicides have been up and down the past 10 years in the city but have been on the rise since 2019. There were 65 criminal homicides in 2014 and that dropped to 36 in 2019. Homicides then rose three consecutive years to 57 in 2022. Meanwhile, Rapes have dropped from 111 in 2017 to 43 in 2022. Assaults reached 1,093 in 2013 and dropped to 747 in 2022.
City Council President Theresa Kail Smith, Public Safety Public Information Officer Cara Cruz and Olga George, press secretary for the Mayor’s Office, did not respond to an email seeking comment. The Pittsburgh Police FOP union did not respond to an email seeking comment.