For years – state law required Pittsburgh police officers to live in the city.
The law changed last October – and after unsuccessful talks with the city –
The police union took the issue to arbitration.
Now Pittsburgh Councilman Ricky Burgess wants to circumvent the collective bargaining process –
With a referendum question to add a residency requirement to the Home Rule Charter.
He’s quoted as saying he doesn’t want police to become the Roman Legion patrolling an area which they have no investment in.
Officers become vested in the neighborhoods they patrol – whether they live there or not,
Residency is no magic formula for great community relations.
In fact – it’s become a problem for recruiting – and keeping – police officers.
Years ago – it didn’t matter.
There were nearly twice as many officers.
Pay was the highest of any department in Allegheny County.
But Act 47 took Pittsburgh to one of the lowest-paying departments.
The city keeps hiring recruits – training them – and watching them leave.
Even veteran officers are heading to other departments.
They get higher pay and better schools for their kids.
Their ranks aren’t stretched as thin.
There are more sticks than carrots here –
And Councilman Burgess’s Home Rule Charter change would only be another stick.
The city of Pittsburgh – and its Police Bureau – have more than enough problems.
The possibility of police officers living outside the city isn’t one of them.