Pittsburgh City Council OKs bill aimed at addressing police staffing shortages

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Pittsburgh City Council passed a bill today intended to push the city to fully staff the police bureau, whose staffing often falls below its budgeted number.

The bill was sponsored by Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith, chair of the public safety committee, who was concerned about the chronic under-staffing of the bureau.

This year, for example, the bureau was budgeted for 892 officers, but has remained short of that number because the city has not trained enough officers to keep up with retirements and attrition. Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson said there are 840 officers on the force and 28 slated to start training at the academy in March or April of 2014.

The bill mandates the city begin training a new class of recruits whenever staffing levels fall 2 percent below the budgeted staffing number. The bill also requires that the class of recruits undergoing training be equal to 5 percent of the budgeted staffing number.  

The final version of the bill eliminated a provision that set the minimum size of the police bureau at 900 after concerns from council members, said Ms. Kail-Smith, and out of respect for the Peduto administration.

Mayor-elect Bill Peduto called the number "arbitrary" and said it was inappropriate to set the minimum without "determining what the full needs of staffing the department" are.

Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.

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