Officers testify on dropping Pittsburgh residency requirement

Union attorney says condition hurts recruitment

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About a dozen current and former police officers testified in an arbitration hearing last week that Pittsburgh should drop its requirement that officers live within city limits.

The attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 1 said the union has been negotiating with the city since late last year, following the passage of a state law that opened the door for them to challenge the requirement. Union attorney Bryan Campbell said the negotiations were unsuccessful and that the matter has gone before a panel of arbitrators, who will decide the matter.

The panel includes Mr. Campbell, who was appointed by the FOP, Joseph Quinn, who was appointed by the city, and a neutral arbitrator, John Skonier. Mr. Campbell said the first hearing was Friday, when they heard testimony from officers.

Mr. Campbell declined to provide a list of the names of the officers who testified. Police union president Sgt. Michael LaPorte is on vacation, and the vice president, Detective Michael Benner, did not respond to a request for comment.

But Mr. Campbell said officers told the panel that the requirement, which applies only to Pittsburgh officers, hurts recruitment. Former officers told the panel that the requirement forced them out of the bureau when they moved to the suburbs. They were searching for better schools for their children, he said.

"Most of them said they wouldn't have left but for the residency," he said.

Mr. Campbell said the city will respond in a hearing scheduled for Oct. 23. City solicitor Dan Regan did not return a call for comment.

In October, a state law that said Pittsburgh's officers "shall" live within the city was amended to say that officers "may" live within the city. The change means that while the city can still require officers to live in the city, the requirement can be challenged by the union.

Acting police Chief Regina McDonald said, as a lifelong city resident, she has no problem with the residency requirement. Of the officers who testified, she said, they're "free to comment on it. Everyone has their own opinions and [ways] it impacts them."

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has firmly opposed lifting the residency requirement. He could not be reached for comment Monday.

Councilman Bill Peduto, who won the Democratic primary in May and is likely to succeed Mr. Ravenstahl, said during his campaign that he believes the residency requirement should be open for negotiation. He declined comment Monday.

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Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.


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