A change in state law has opened the door to eliminating a requirement that Pittsburgh police officers live in the city they are sworn to protect.
That door should be slammed shut.
Last year, a state law that said Pittsburgh police officers "shall" reside within the city was softened to say that officers "may" do so. That language would be completely meaningless -- of course officers may live in the city -- but for the City Code, which includes a residency provision that applies to all city employees.
The change in state law provided an opening for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 1 to challenge the requirement, and during a recent arbitration hearing, dozens of current and former officers testified in support of abolishing the residency rule.
If that happens, police officers could become the only city employees not bound by the requirement that they live in Pittsburgh. The change would be unfair and it isn't necessary.
Asking workers to support their employers by being taxpaying citizens is not unduly burdensome. In addition, living in a community can better prepare officers -- in fact, all city workers -- for their jobs, because they are bound to be more informed about what's going on at a grassroots level and more connected to their fellow Pittsburghers by virtue of being members of the populace.
While residency requirements may be too restrictive in some communities, that's not true in a city as large and diverse as Pittsburgh. There is enormous variety in the kinds of housing available, whether one is seeking a small apartment for one or a rambling home for a large family. There is a vast array of educational options for employees' children, from public schools that include optional magnet programs to charter, parochial and private institutions. And city neighborhoods run the gamut from tightly packed urban sectors to sections that feel more like suburbia.
With such options for a good quality of life, it is not too much to ask Pittsburgh's officers to live in the city.