A couple weeks ago, to the surprise of the Pittsburgh St. Patrick's Day Parade committee, the Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police said it would not participate in this year's parade, the parade chairman said today.
"I've been involved with the parade for 15 years and I've never known them not to be part of it," said Pat O'Brien, parade chairman, who would have preferred them to be in the parade because they are warmly received by the crowds.
But exactly why the FOP withdrew is not clear.
Mr. O'Brien said the committee was told that the FOP -- which typically had a float and about 50 or 60 members march in the annual parade -- said they were withdrawing because of "a dispute with the city administration" but it was not given details.
FOP President Mike Laporte said today after the parade that it was not a dispute, it was simply because "we don't even have the manpower to do that."
He said because of the city's continual reduction in police staffing, plus demands on officers to work overtime, or be called in on off days, like today, there weren't even enough officers available.
He said he has warned the city's administration in the past that the staffing issues were "a brewing storm," but "now the storm is here."
He said when the issue of participating in the parade came up during a membership meeting two weeks ago "I didn't even try" to get 50 or 60 members together because he didn't want to "to take away what little precious time they have with their families" and take part in the parade.
He hasn't discussed the issue with Mayor Bill Peduto, though, because "I don't know when the mayor is going to take an interest in the police. He hasn't yet."
Public Safety Director Mike Huss said today he was not aware that the FOP pulled out of the parade because of any concerns over manpower.
"I don't care if they march or don't march," Mr. Huss said. "I'm only concerned about the safety of the city."
Sean D. Hamill: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2579