Pittsburgh police added five new officers of color on Thursday, inching closer to city leaders' goals for minority representation.
Nearly 26 percent of the bureau's newest officers were men of color, including four black males and one Hispanic male. Mayor Bill Peduto said late last year he wanted to increase minority representation to a number more closely reflecting the city's citizens. According to the U.S. Census, that's up to 34 percent.
Chief Cameron McLay said the city has made some progress on hiring minority police candidates since staffing a diversity recruiter, who primarily works with the police.
“It’s improved our diversity numbers in the classes a little bit – nowhere near enough to make me happy, though. So, I think this year we’re going to be looking to double down on our efforts," McLay said. “If I can pull it off in terms of having adequate staffing, I intend to create a full-time recruiter to work along with the personnel recruiter, and start being more proactive in targeting a little further afield than simply recruiting here locally.”
Thursday's graduation ceremony came more than a year after the city agreed to diversify its Bureau of Police and paid a settlement of nearly $1 million to five minority candidates who alleged they were passed over for police jobs despite scoring highly on exams.
Of the 19 officers sworn in this week, only one was female. Just one woman graduated among the department's 34 December graduates as well.
In 2014, the most recent year in which data is available, the city's police force employed 144 women, roughly 17 percent of its 856 total employees. Retirements brought that number to 803 by 2015's end, according to the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1. Another 175 officers are eligible to retire this year.
City officials announced on Wednesday plans to move the Highland Park training academy to the Community College of Allegheny County on the North Side to accommodate larger classes. One class began in March, and two others are scheduled to start in September and December, respectively.
The officers Thursday were fresh from three months of field training and 10 months of preliminary training and testing.
90.5 WESA reporter Noah Brode contributed to this report.