PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — This summer’s Kenny Chesney concert attracted thousands of fans who spent millions of dollars in the city. It took dozens of off-duty and on-duty Pittsburgh police officers to handle.
The on-duty uniformed officers taken off of the streets and sent to these big events.
“We’re sending 24 officers to these venues to direct traffic or what have you in a zone that may have seven officers working that particular shift,” said Mike Laporte, the police union president. “We’re talking about two to three officers that are in a patrol vehicle out there answering 911 calls. The public safety aspect of that is horrendous.”
Here’s what happened, when a Pittsburgh police officer is working off-duty at a big event, the officers is paid by the organizer approximately $43 per hour.
The on-duty, taxpayer-paid officer sent to the same event by the city to help out is paid $28 per hour.
An arbitrator just ruled the city has to pay both officers the same amount. It’s a decision that could cost taxpayers millions.
“We’re up to $8 million for staffing overtime or other events,” said Pittsburgh City Councilman Corey O’Connor.
City leaders agree that it’s a money problem, a staffing problem and a public safety problem.
“We don’t want everybody to be at a Pirate game and a robbery happens in Squirrel Hill or Greenfield, and then we don’t have enough staff to cover it,” said O’Connor.
Police speaking to City Council members say it’s not a money grab. Their claim is that the arbitrators decision will force the city to order all big event organizers to pay for all police, and let patrol officers patrol the city.
“It really wasn’t about the money. It’s about protecting not only the citizens, but our officers who are left back in the zones to handle calls, and quite frankly, putting them in a very dangerous situation,” said Laporte.
On the North Side, where police say a big event at the stadiums leaves them with one maybe two officers, citizens know just who should pay for big event police protection.
“People holding the event,” said Breschell Veney, a North Side resident.
KDKA’s Marty Griffin: “Why?”
Veney: “They want the extra protection, they pay for it.”