BRADDOCK (KDKA) — They put their lives on the line for their towns every day and night, but police officers in the Mon Valley can’t make a living wage.
Some make as little as $9 an hour and have no health insurance; but KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan reports that one state lawmaker wants to change all that.
While arresting a known prostitute and drug addict, Braddock Officer Brian Stotlemeyer reached into her boot where she had stuffed a crack pipe. The suspect kicked him, and the jagged edge of the pipe stuck him in the finger.
“The fact that I don’t know what diseases she might have. I just got stuck in the finger with a crack pipe she’d just been using,” he said.
For the next six months, Stotlemyer will be on regimen of anti-viral medication to defend against hepatitis and other diseases. However, as a part-timer, he has no health insurance. Even in healthiest of times, his salary of $10.10 an hour isn’t enough to live on.
“If it wasn’t for my fiancée, I wouldn’t be able to keep my house right now,” he said.
But like other public officials in the Mon Valley, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman can’t afford to pay Stotlemeyer and his fellow officers a decent wage or give them health insurance.
“We have courageous men and women out here that risk everything for what you could make at a cashier’s job at The Waterfront, and that’s just wrong on so many levels,” he said.
The plight of part-time, uninsured and underpaid police officers has scratched its way into public consciousness with the near fatal shooting of Clairton Officer James Kuzak, whose town couldn’t offer him full-time work or living wage.
Now, former McKeesport mayor and State Sen. James Brewster is introducing a bill to establish a minimum pay for police and have the state make up the difference.
“If a local community can afford $10 an hour and the floor limit is 15, I’ve got to find $5,” he said.
Brewster says he believes virtually no one in the legislature will find fault in this bill – the problem will be finding the money in cash-strapped Harrisburg.
He’s proposing an increase in fees for state traffic violations or other offenses, but Fetterman says the money must be found.
“At a minimum, they need a living wage,” said Fetterman. They deserve a good salary with good benefits, but at a minimum the legislature needs to deliver a living wage for these men and women.”
Regardless, Stotlemayer remains committed with hopes for the future.
“I love this job; I want to do it, want to keep doing it,” he said.