Pittsburgh will, at least for now, pay the extra cost of sending on-duty officers to work near special events such as Pirates, Penguins and Steelers games after an arbitrator's award said those officers were entitled to a higher rate of pay.
For years, the city has sent on-duty officers to work along with off-duty officers, who were paid by the venues at a higher time-and-a-half rate, directing traffic near the city's major sporting events.
Exactly how much money the city will pay in light of a recent arbitrator's award granting on-duty officers the same, higher rate of pay is unclear. Also unclear is how long the city will continue to foot the bill.
Acting police Chief Regina McDonald said Monday that the bureau has continued to send the same number of on-duty officers to work at the beginning and end of Pirates games since the arbitrator's Sept. 30 award.
Each of the on-duty officers is expected to receive $42.12 per hour while working at those locations. Their normal on-duty rates of pay vary depending upon their rank.
The arbitrator's award came after two Pittsburgh police officers filed more than a half-dozen grievances saying they felt the city had violated the collective bargaining agreement.
City officials had argued that they felt the working agreement allowed officers to be paid different rates for doing essentially the same work. Arbitrator Philip W. Parkinson sided with the police union.
The police union has for some time argued that sending on-duty officers to work at the locations of "special events" strips the neighborhood stations of officers needed to respond to calls.
Sgt. Michael LaPorte, president of the police union, said last week that he hopes the city will use the arbitrators' award as ammunition to send fewer on-duty officers to sporting events and to ask the sports organizations to hire more off-duty officers to work near them.
"We're hoping that they take that initiative," he said. "We think basically we handed that to them on a silver platter."
Chief McDonald referred to the public safety director and the Law Department questions about whether the city might ask the venues to pay.
Public safety director Michael Huss declined to go into detail, saying only that the city is considering its options. The city also has the option to appeal the arbitrator's award in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.
City solicitor Daniel Regan said Monday, "We have not made a decision in regards to whether or not we're going to appeal the arbitrator's award."
Liz Navratil: email@example.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. First Published October 7, 2013 8:00 PM