By Andy Sheehan

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay says he gets it. His police are dispirited, upset with a residency requirement, and being underpaid compared to many suburban departments.

“Realizing how much more they get paid, and how much more work we do and the higher volume and greater danger of the work our officers do. Certainly that takes a toll,” said Chief McLay.

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Add to that understaffing.

In an email to the rank and file, Chief McLay warns of “mass retirements” for a bureau already “well below authorized staffing levels.” Chief McLay says he must take steps to keep the public and his officers safe.

“The worse the staffing shortage becomes the greater the reality that everyone of us are going to be in blue suits out there helping to police Pittsburgh,” said Chief McLay.

Though authorized for 907 officers, police staffing levels have fallen to 840. Chief McLay says he may soon lose as many as 100 more officers to retirement.

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“There was a massive hiring about 20 years ago, and all of those individuals are now fully pension-eligible. So there’s an inevitability of significant turn over,” he said.

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Chief McLay says the city plans to put on three new recruiting classes this year, but that services may suffer in the meantime. Police who walk a beat to foster better community relations may be reassigned to patrol cars.

“They will run from 911 call to 911 call. It will be very task focused. It won’t be their fault. It’s not like they don’t want to do community police, they won’t be able to,” he said.

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Chief McLay is urging the rank and file to hang tough while the city tries to train more recruits, but with these shortages in staffing, morale is bound to get worse before it gets better.