As Pittsburgh police await a new contract expected to slash retirement benefits, officers are leaving the force in droves, unwilling to face an uncertain financial future at the mercy of the city’s economic recovery plan, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says. In a normal year, 55 officers retire. This week alone, 23 have left. That makes 108 retirements for the year. The number of police officers has been driven down to the lowest level in at least 50 years, prompting concerns about public safety and emergency response times.
Many officers are sitting on the fence, waiting to see what a new contract might offer them as decided by a three-member panel. But a contract is not expected until today or tomorrow, with the union waiting on the neutral arbitrator’s decision. The force level “is the lowest I think anybody has ever seen, probably since before I was born,” Chief Robert W. McNeilly Jr. said. “The numbers concern us. I felt more comfortable with 900 officers. I believe most people feel the same way. We are striving to try to get people back into the ranks as quickly as possible.”