Although Pittsburgh City Council voted on Wednesday to fund a police education program at the Community College of Allegheny County, at least one Council Member raised questions about the necessity of a rule that requires all Pittsburgh police officers to have 60 college credits before joining the force - particularly for military members.
The CCAC program, crafted specifically for the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, will receive about $25,000 in city funds if Council gives the legislation final approval on Tuesday. Also up for a final vote is a bill that would dedicate $77,000 to the company that administers the police entrance exam.
The bureau's requirement for officers to earn roughly two years' worth of college credits was created in the 1990s by then-Chief Robert McNeilly, according to the Department of Personnel and Civil Service Commission.
City Councilman Patrick Dowd said he thinks the requirement made sense at a time when college was relatively cheaper, but he said the rule may be unneeded for former military members.
"There are thousands of them returning who have plenty of experience, plenty of knowledge, plenty of skills that we would potentially want to look at tapping into, but may not have the college credits," said Dowd. "Quite frankly, maybe that's a requirement that's an unnecessary hurdle."
However, Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess disagreed.
"I would be very hesitant to reduce the educational requirements for police, given the technological world," said Burgess. "I want someone with more skills and better skills, not less skills."
While it gave preliminary approval to the police education bills, City Council held three other pieces of legislation relating to police for one week. One bill from Councilwoman Theresa Smith would set minimum staffing levels, while another from Smith and a third bill from Council President Darlene Harris would clarify the rules regarding police officers' "secondary employment."
Police Chief Nathan Harper was forced to resign last month after news broke that his office had allegedly diverted city money from a fund for off-duty details into a private account used for non-city expenses.