The coronavirus pandemic and low morale are affecting efforts to recruit officers and retain the ones they already have.By Amy Wadas

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Pittsburgh Police Department could be in crisis if hundreds of police officers end up retiring in the fall. On top of that, there’s the issue of recruiting new officers during a global pandemic.

Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert said there is one class in training at the Pittsburgh Police Academy, and Schubert said this could be the only class for a while due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the hiring freeze his department is dealing with.

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Schubert said there are 286 police officers eligible for retirement this fall.

“This year I think we are at about 33 so far at the end of August, and I think most will probably wait until they get into 2021 for additional benefits and funding,” said Schubert.

However, he says, it’s hard to say, especially in a time of protests and calls for police reform.

“There might be people who are tired. They got into this and it seems like they’re not being respected or appreciated, and a lot of it, unfortunately, is due to the sins of a few in our profession who do the wrong thing,” said Schubert.

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Schubert said his department budgeted for around 900 officers. Currently, there’s over 1,000, but if they dip below that number, he said that’s a problem.

“What would we have to move around and services we can’t provide because we don’t have to resources to do it,” said Schubert.

Schubert also said recruitment is down, a problem he said departments are having across the nation.

FOP President Robert Swartzwelder said these issues need to be addressed right away.

“If you have a bad apple or a police officer who violated their oath, you address that particular officer or particular circumstance. You do not paint the profession with a broad brush,” said Swartzwelder.

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Chief Schubert said you have to keep officers motivated. He said in addition to working with human resources, he’s also working on moving community engagement under his office so he can handle projects involving diversion, homelessness and mental health.