In one of his biggest decisions so far as Pittsburgh mayor, Ed Gainey announced he is nominating Larry Scirotto to be the city’s next chief of police. The appointment capped a search that lasted almost a year and still requires City Council’s approval.

“His deep ties in the city and his deep ties in the bureau, and his outside perspective, make him the right choice,” Gainey said at a press conference Wednesday.

Scirotto, 49, will take over the bureau at a time when internal pressures and staffing issues, along with the desire for reform that swept Gainey into office two years ago, will make the chief’s job a challenging one. 

Brandi Fisher, the president of the Alliance for Police Accountability, said she has worked with Scirotto in the past. “I believe him to be an equitable person,” she said in an interview with PublicSource.

“We’re hoping Larry is a person that is reasonable and someone we can work with to make the changes that people want to see in this region,” Fisher said.

Scirotto spent 23 years with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, reaching the rank of assistant chief. He headed the Professional Standards Branch, which was responsible for training, wellness, safety and policy development, and was involved in efforts to increase diversity on the force.

“Man, it’s good to be home,” said Scirotto.

In 2017, he was reportedly a finalist for the top job in the Portland, Oregon, police department, but didn’t get the nod.

In 2021, he won the post of chief of Fort Lauderdale’s department. But he was fired in 2022, after around seven months on the job. Reports indicated that he was dismissed for hiring and promotions policies that were too focused on minority candidates. He sued the city for wrongful termination. The city in late April filed a motion to dismiss, which has yet to be ruled on.

In his civil complaint against Fort Lauderdale, Scirotto alleged that city officials repeatedly urged him to increase diversity in the department before and after he was hired. Of the 15 people he promoted, he said, nine were white men.

Scirotto said at the press conference that Fort Lauderdale asked him “to create a fair environment and a diverse environment.” He said his legal team will determine the best course of action regarding his lawsuit against that city.

“Mayor Gainey hasn’t asked me to do anything other than create a fair environment,” Scirotto added.

Asked about priorities for personnel decisions, Gainey said his administration’s focus is on quality.

Larry Scirotto, nominee for the post of chief of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, speaks at a press conference announcing his nomination on May 3, 2023, in the lobby of the City-County Building, Downtown. At right, Mayor Ed Gainey stands at his side. (Photo by Eric Jankiewicz/PublicSource)

David Harris, a Pitt Law professor specializing in policing who served on Gainey’s search committee, said he doesn’t think Scirotto did “anything untoward” in his work in Florida and that his suit against the city could have merit.

“He was hired in large part to bring change and diversity to the department and its leadership,” Harris said. “It’s one of those situations, ‘If you’re going to hire me to do something, don’t be surprised when I actually do it.’”

Scirotto is also a longtime college basketball referee.

Larry Scirotto, nominee for the post of chief of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, speaks at a press conference announcing his nomination on May 3, 2023, in the lobby of the City-County Building, Downtown. (Photo by Eric Jankiewicz/PublicSource)

“Many people have asked me, ‘Why come back now, during probably the most tumultuous time in our profession?’” Scirotto said at the press conference. “Because what we do matters.” He added that he knows the city well. “I know its strengths and its weaknesses.”

He pledged to “reevaluate every unit, every department, every role” over the next few months.

Fisher said she hopes Scirotto reimplements a city council ordinance limiting traffic stops for minor infractions that Acting Chief Tom Stangrecki negated in January.

Gainey’s nomination of a new chief comes as the bureau is at a crossroads and could have a profound impact on the force’s future.

In March, the Fraternal Order of Police [FOP] lodge representing Pittsburgh officers voted overwhelmingly to accept a new contract with the city.

It boosts police salaries substantially, adding nearly $8 million to the city’s 2023 budget, but also imposes a new disciplinary system on the bureau. More than a dozen policy violations are now considered “terminable,” and discipline for other missteps is now to be meted out according to a matrix that considers the severity of the offense and whether the officer is a repeat violator.

A member of the Pittsburgh Police as Mayor Ed Gainey announces Larry Scirotto as his administration’s nominee for the post of chief of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, during a press conference announcing the nomination on May 3, 2023, in the lobby of the City-County Building, Downtown. (Photo by Eric Jankiewicz/PublicSource)

“Regardless of who the mayor selects as the chief, as long as the chief follows the working agreement between the FOP and the city, the FOP will have no issues with the chief,” said FOP President Robert Swartzwelder on Tuesday. “In the event that the chief violates the agreement, the FOP will have issues.”

Under Gainey, who ran in 2021 on a platform of police accountability, complaints against officers have dropped substantially. Excessive force allegations, especially, have plunged. Disciplinary actions have also dipped. 

But the bureau’s roster is also down to around 800, versus more than 1,000 in 2020. The city’s budget calls for 900 uniformed bureau members, from the chief to rookie officers.

The bureau indicated in its 2021 annual report — the most recent such report available — that the force was 85% white and 86% male.

It’s unclear yet whether crime is up overall, as the bureau has not yet released complete data on 2022 police activities. But homicides are up, contributing to tough-on-crime talk in the race for Allegheny County executive — a post with little direct impact on law enforcement within the city.

On Thursday, the attorney for the family of the late Jim Rogers announced an $8 million settlement with the city, a year and a half after the 54-year-old man’s death following repeated shocks from an officer’s Taser, in response to a report of a stolen bicycle.

Gainey said in a press release that the city “will also be reviewing our use-of-force policies with the [Rogers] family and other advocates. We are committed to changing policing in our city and working to rebuild community police relationships so that everyone in Pittsburgh feels safe.”

Scirotto’s decades of experience within the city police could give him an edge over a newcomer, Harris said, in that he won’t need a lengthy “warmup period” to learn the ins and outs of the organization. But he warned that a long-established figure “might be less likely to bring transformative change that we all want to see in how the bureau operates.”

The city budget sets the chief’s salary at $148,847.  Public Safety Director Lee Schmidt said Scirotto will earn $180,000.

Larry Scirotto, nominee for the post of chief of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, speaks at a press conference announcing his nomination on May 3, 2023, in the lobby of the City-County Building, Downtown. He is flanked by (from left) mayoral spokesperson Maria Montaño, Public Safety Director Lee Schmidt, Mayor Ed Gainey and others. (Photo by Eric Jankiewicz/PublicSource)

Scirotto will need to be approved by City Council before his appointment is official. Council President Theresa Kail-Smith has pledged that council will conduct a public review before green-lighting Gainey’s pick. She told PublicSource late Wednesday that she will reserve judgment on Scirotto until after council interviews him, but that she “had a good working relationship” with him when he was with the bureau previously.  

Councilman Anthony Coghill, council’s public safety chair, said he “looks forward to interviewing him and questioning him as far as anything that has come up in the past.”

“I have questions, I don’t know that I’d call them concerns,” Coghill said.

Scirotto emerged from a search process that featured a survey and public meetings in October and November and deliberations by a committee that included community organizations.

Gainey called it “a robust process to identify who will be the next chief. We met with the rank and file in every zone to determine what their needs were. … I made a choice and my choice is Larry Scirotto to be the next chief of this city.”

News reports indicated that it generated three finalists: former Boise, Idaho, police Chief Ryan Lee, who has been accused of injuring one of that department’s sergeants; Frederick, Md., Chief Jason Lando, formerly commander of Pittsburgh’s Narcotics and Vice Unit; and Scirotto.

Since the July retirement of former Chief Scott Schubert, the bureau has been led by Stangrecki. Schmidt thanked Stangrecki “for maintaining great leadership since Chief Schubert left.”

Charlie Wolfson is PublicSource’s local government reporter and a Report for America corps member. He can be reached at

Eric Jankiewicz is PublicSource’s economic development reporter, and can be reached at or on Twitter @ericjankiewicz.

Rich Lord is PublicSource’s managing editor and can be reached at

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charlie wolfson profile picture, wearing a green shirt

Charlie Wolfson is an enterprise reporter for PublicSource, focusing on local government accountability in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. He is also a Report for America corps member. Charlie aims to...

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Eric Jankiewicz

Eric Jankiewicz is a reporter focused on housing and economic development for PublicSource. A native New Yorker, Eric moved to Pittsburgh in 2017 and has since fallen in love with his adopted city, even...

Rich is the managing editor of PublicSource. He joined the team in 2020, serving as a reporter focused on housing and economic development and an assistant editor. He reported for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette...