Council hears about looming city police retirements

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As many as 500 of Pittsburgh's 886 police officers will be eligible to retire between now and 2015, police union president Dan O'Hara said today at a City Council meeting on rising concerns about police staffing.

Officials said they're already concerned about staffing levels; a spate of future retirements is cause for additional worry.

"Not everyone will take advantage of that opportunity to leave" but "we don't know what each individual is thinking," Mr. O'Hara, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 1, said.

The department's budget allows for 917 officers, but it has trouble reaching or staying at that level because of retirements, resignations and hiring policies that try to keep the size of the force in line with budget limitations.

"We can't exceed our budgetary authority," city Public Safety Director Michael Huss said.

The department has 886 officers now. Mr. O'Hara and Charles Hanlon, union vice president, said 950 officers is a more reasonable number to police a city Pittsburgh's size.

Mr. O'Hara said the department has difficulty recruiting and keeping officers, partly because better benefits in suburban departments lure some away. He said some officers also don't want to live in the city and send their children to the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Councilman Patrick Dowd said residents want more police on the streets.

"There's a sense of shortage," he said.


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