Pittsburgh Police Department to Use State Grant to Help Bolster Recruiting

May 22, 2024
A large proportion of the grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency will go to training a new team of Pittsburgh police officers dedicated to recruitment efforts.

As concerns about police staffing levels continue to plague Pittsburgh, City Council members approved a $315,000 grant from the state to help recruitment efforts.

A large portion of the grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency will go to training a new team of officers dedicated to recruitment efforts, Commander Anthony Palermo said.

"The overarching goal is to professionalize our recruitment efforts [in a] multi-pronged approach," Cmdr. Palermo said in a council meeting last week.

The team of officers has already been established. The offer went out across the bureau and leadership conducted interviews "to try and make sure people were the right people, for the right motivations," he said.

The bureau wanted to make sure that the team was made up of officers who are "going to properly represent the department and is not just looking for overtime," Public Safety Director Lee Schmidt said in a council meeting last week.

The money will also go toward advertising campaigns and promotional recruiting videos, as well as a vehicle for the recruitment team to use.

Mr. Schmidt said that in previous years the recruiting process has been "very informal" and mainly consisted of people from the human resources department going to different events and taking one or two officers with them.

This new team will go out to various events across the city and travel to other cities to do recruitment, Mr. Schmidt said. Some of that has already begun, with officers going to the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and to the Allegheny County Police Academy to find new recruits.

The bureau is also hoping to set up a mentorship program for the new recruits, Mr. Schmidt said.

"That's been a big strategy that most cities that are successful [in recruitment] have," he said last week.

For some recruits, it can be six months to a year before they enter the academy after their initial application. Having a mentor, Mr. Schmidt said, helps keep recruits on track during that time and during their training.

"I would love to see our recruiting efforts focused on the city of Pittsburgh," Councilman Anthony Coghill said. "We see it across the country, we know that recruitment is down whether you're in Bethel Park or the city of Pittsburgh."

Previously, police officers had to live within city limits, but in 2017 the residency requirement was loosened to allow officers to live within 25 miles of the City-County Building in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Like other cities across the country, Pittsburgh has been grappling with a reduced number of police officers for years.

"We're all kind of in the same boat, so we're all fighting over the same resources," Cmdr. Palermo said. "[We're] trying to get to the point where we can sell our opportunity here over some other department."

Pittsburgh's recruitment classes have been smaller than usual lately. In the years leading up to the pandemic, an average of 70 to 90 recruits were being trained and graduating each year. The most recent class graduated in March with 24 officers.

The bureau is currently reviewing the psychological exam recruits have to pass after about two dozen candidates were rejected from the bureau based on the results of their psych exam. The rejection of the candidates has delayed the current recruitment class.

"I have real concerns with the numbers on the police force, but the only thing we can do is put our efforts toward the recruiting process," Mr. Coghill said.


(c)2024 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at www.post-gazette.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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