After a threatened setback from the city's public safety director, a plan to improve patrols on the South Side is moving back on track.
Chief Michael Huss had decided last week that, because of abuses in the police bureau's section that handles assignments and payments for off-duty officers, this wasn't the right time to approve a new arrangement for such work -- even though it is aimed at improving a neighborhood where residents and its popular night spots long have been in conflict.
A solution has been elusive for years. At considerable expense, the city hired the Responsible Hospitality Institute to figure out how to improve conditions for all parties. That bore fruit and, recently, the South Side neighbors and businesses settled on a pilot plan in which bar and restaurant owners would pitch in $250,000 so that 20 off-duty officers could join 10 on-duty police to patrol East Carson and nearby streets on weekends.
The pilot project was to start on May 17, just in time for warmer weather and an uptick in the busy bar scene. But Mr. Huss' reluctance to expand one off-duty detail while figuring out how to handle the secondary work on a citywide basis looked as if it would scuttle the plan.
Although he said he thinks the South Side arrangement is a good one, he initially said he did not want to expand the secondary employment system "while we're trying to clean up this mess."
"This mess" includes the indictment of former police chief Nate Harper and allegations that he and others diverted more than $70,000 in payments made by businesses for private security details for their own use. Yes, that mess must be cleaned up, but it's still worth figuring out how to improve conditions on the South Side.
A lot of progress was made during a meeting held Friday by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. Mr. Huss said Monday that yet to be resolved are how the officers will be chosen for the work and how the payments will be handled.
The bar and restaurant association is expected to take up the matter tomorrow. It has taken a long time for the relevant groups on the South Side to agree on how to make the neighborhood safe and orderly for residents while maintaining a lively business district. Let's hope that momentum won't be lost and that South Side residents, businesses and patrons may get to enjoy a better summer in the city.