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Larry Scirotto sworn in as Pittsburgh's chief of police

Pittsburgh Police Chief Larry Scirotto stands next to Mayor Ed Gainey to take the oath of office.
Kiley Koscinski
90.5 WESA
Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey swears in the city's new police chief, Larry Scirotto, on Wednesday.

Larry Scirotto was formally sworn in as Pittsburgh’s chief of police Wednesday, about two weeks after he sailed through City Council’s confirmation process. Scirotto returns to the bureau after a five-year departure to pursue police work elsewhere.

“I stand before you with humility and gratitude for the trust that has been placed in me,” Scirotto told a crowd of city officials and supporters in City Council chambers Wednesday. “I am committed to serving, protecting the community to the best of my abilities.”

Scirotto was not wearing a police uniform as he took the oath of office. He explained that he’s still in the process of being recertified by the state before he can wear the badge. He expects to complete a certification exam on June 20, alongside some county recruits who are finishing their training.

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Because of Scirotto’s experience, he only needs to complete the exam rather than go through the entire training process. He said the written test covers “the crime code to the vehicle code, the laws, the Constitution,” he said. “Everything that they learn in the training academy through those nine-and-a-half months is condensed into this one test.”

In the meantime, the chief can’t exercise police powers like making arrests or ticketing motorists. But Scirotto said he’s confident he’ll be recertified by June 21.

He takes the helm of the police bureau at a difficult time, something several city officials recognized during the swearing-in ceremony. But Scirotto referred to issues such as a staffing shortage and low morale as opportunities for him to make positive changes within the bureau.

“[It’s] changing a mindset, changing culture into a glass-half-full … type of mindset,” he told reporters. “I think six months from now, we’ll start to see the changes of that.”

Scirotto said a new class of police recruits is undergoing background checks before the academy starts next month. Scirotto estimated that between 30 and 35 recruits are expected to attend training. He said another recruiting class will begin in November.

While the department’s force is 96 officers shy of the size budgeted by the city, Scirotto said the shortage could be eased by the new academy classes and an effort to “think outside the box,” about how to use the officers already on staff. Scirotto has pledged to reorganize the bureau to move officers from desk jobs to more specialized roles.

He said that work has begun, but changes have not yet been made in the three weeks since he’s taken over the job.

Scirotto received considerable praise from other city leaders as he was sworn in. City Council members said they were confident Scirotto was up to the difficult task ahead of bettering the department and bringing down violent crime.

Mayor Ed Gainey said he was “delighted” to watch Scirotto take over the department, but warned that the bureau’s successes and failures won’t be his alone.

“I just don't want to say, ‘Hey, we’ve given this to the chief and everybody back off and he's going to come and save the day.’ That only happens in the movies,” Gainey said. “The reality is it takes all of us.”

Scirotto said Wednesday he was up for the task ahead, which he said included building community relationships and modernizing how the police bureau handles crime.

“As we move forward, we must acknowledge the challenges that lie ahead," he said. "Our world is constantly evolving, and with it so too are the complexities of crime. We must adapt, innovate and be responsive to the changing dynamics of our community.”

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.