By Andy Sheehan
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — To Rankin police officer Rich Adams, police work is not just a job – it’s a vocation.
That’s why he’s willing to work part-time and patrol these streets for $9.05 an hour.
“I believe this is what the Lord put me here to do and if he wants me to do it for $9 an hour, I’m going to do it for $9 an hour,” Adams said.
Throughout the Mon Valley in towns like Rankin and Braddock, the story’s the same. Part-time officers put their lives on the line for low pay and no benefits.
“How can you have a person placing themselves in harm’s way making less than $9 an hour. It’s outrageous, it’s deplorable,” said Braddock Mayor John Fetterman.
“Should there be a minimum so these young men and women shouldn’t be asked to risk their lives, and I think the answer to that is yes,” State Sen. James Brewster said.
Now some elected officials are taking action. Brewster wants to find state money to guarantee all police officers minimum pay – something considerably higher than $9 an hour.
“We need to look at the budget. Clearly, there’s deficiencies there that’s overwhelming but there are opportunities and we need to look at this particular items and it’s called law enforcement,” he said.
Brewster will be meeting next week with several Mon Valley police chiefs and District Attorney Stephen Zappala, who also see a crisis in threadbare, underfunded police departments responding to high crime – 45,000 criminal complaints, 5,000 criminal cases.
“There real cases, they’re major crime cases,” Zappala said.
Zappala is proposing shifting county law enforcement assets into the valley to aid struggling police departments.
“A court presence, CSI presence, intelligence and major crime president in the Mon Valley,” he said.
Meanwhile, Adams is working two other part-time police jobs just to make ends meet and even with the shooting of Officer Kuzak, he’s still willing to do it for low pay and long hours.
“Anybody that does this job and does it well knows that what happened the other night is part and parcel of what can happen everyday we put on a badge,” Adams said.