The racial skew of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police activity remained largely unchanged in 2022, with most actions involving Black males, per just-released law enforcement data.
Pittsburgh Bureau of Police activity dropped, by several key measures, during the first year of Mayor Ed Gainey’s administration, but the historic skewing of arrests and other such actions toward Black males did not budge.
The bureau in recent days released its annual statistical report, an 85-page chronicle of activity by a force that has steadily waned from around 1,000 officers in 2019 to fewer than 800 today. Among the findings, the report shows a sizable drop in overall arrests, traffic stops and park-and-walks between 2021 and last year.
A police spokesperson said this is consistent with national trends since the onset of the pandemic in 2020 but the underlying causes are unclear.
“It’s difficult to pinpoint any one thing that may have resulted in decreased numbers in these areas,” Cara Cruz, the department’s public information officer, wrote in an email.
From the vantage of officers, staffing shortages appear to be a factor.
“You’re losing numbers so you can’t do as much proactive policing,” said Robert Swartzwelder, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police lodge representing the bureau rank-and-file. “It’s probably significantly correlated … You see the number of police officers dropping at the same rate as you’re seeing that activity dropping.”
Anthony Coghill, a city councilor who chairs the public safety committee, said he had not yet reviewed the report but reiterated Swartzwelder’s concerns about the impact of reduced staffing.
“That’s disturbing to me,” he said. “It’s alarming.”
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the reduced activity tracked closely to declining officer counts. The 2022 report did not include updated information on the force’s numbers and demographics. It included outdated numbers that were identical to those in the 2021 report. Cruz said the bureau was working to correct that error.
During his successful 2021 mayoral campaign, Gainey said high arrest rates of Black Pittsburghers reflected a failure to implement community-oriented policing, adding that there was “a serious issue with overpolicing in our neighborhoods, and the numbers don’t lie.”
During his first year in office, Black men continued to comprise nearly half of those arrested by the bureau, and nearly three-fourths of those who were stopped and frisked.