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Acting Pittsburgh chief puts earning trust of officers, community as top priority

Acting Chief Larry Scirotto will use an earlier staffing study to assess and possibly reallocate resources to impact OT and staffing shortages


Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey/Facebook

By Megan Guza
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PITTSBURGH — Acting Pittsburgh Police Chief Larry Scirotto said his top priority as the incoming head of the department — pending city council approval — is to earn trust.

That includes both the trust of his officers and the trust of the community, he told WESA, Pittsburgh’s local NPR affiliate.

“The relationship between community and police isn’t binary,” said Mr. Scirotto, 49 “It’s not an and/or proposition. I believe it’s a partnership that we build on trust.”

That means being available and accessible to the officers and to the community, and not just in times of crisis.

That will take a deliberate and intentional effort he said — as will the rest of his top priorities.

Among them is the continued decline in Pittsburgh police numbers. The city budgets for 900 officers, and the actual total has hovered around 800. A recruit class begins in July, but it will be nearly a year before those recruits can fly solo.

Part of the plan is using a $180,000 staffing study to determine if the city is using its police resources in the right places and, if not, where they should be reallocated. The staffing study was commissioned by the city in July. The results have yet to be made public, but Mr. Scirotto said that will help guide his decisions on reorganization.

Assessing, reassessing and possibly reallocating, he said, “can then impact overtime [and] impact the shortage that we have.”

He said that’s particularly important in a department where around a quarter of the city’s officers could be eligible to retire in the next several years.

“That is impactful, and we have to assume that could happen and we have to prep for that,” he said.

Mr. Scirotto returns to the department where he spent more than two decades of his career. He retired from the city in 2018 and was a finalist for the top spot in several police departments across the country before he landed in Fort Lauderdale, Fl., in mid-2021.

His tenure there was short after allegations of favoring non-white candidates were levied just a few months after he started. A report from an outside law firm hired to investigate the accusations led to Mr. Scirotto’s ouster from the department in March 2022.

He told the radio station that that experience will not change his commitment to diversity.

“I have always identified and highlighted the most talented people and given them opportunities — race, gender, orientation have never been a factor,” he said. “None of that changes, none of that has changed. It didn’t change in Florida, it was just a narrative created in Florida.”

The playing field, he said, will be level.

“To the white male officers in this department, you have the exact same opportunities, but I will create a fair playing field — that’s important,” he said.

He said the bureau of police should reflect the city it policies. Pittsburgh’s population is around 23% Black. Black officers make up about 11% of the police force, according to the most recent report from the Department of Public Safety.

“What I’ve done in the past is what I know to be just, what I know to be legal and what I know to be beneficial,” Mr. Scirotto said. “We have to have an organization that is reflective of our community.”

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