While locally appointed arbitrators will make their final decision in September as to whether the requirement for Pittsburgh police to live in the city should be lifted, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl already has his answer: No.
Ravenstahl said he believes the city police should stay where they are.
“I think it’s important for them to be in the neighborhoods in which they patrol," Ravenstahl said. "The residents feel safer when they have a police officer living in their community. It seems to me that it’s working now, and there’s no need to change it.”
As of now, Pittsburgh police officers are required to live in the city, but last year Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) helped pass legislation that allows officers in Pittsburgh the right to bargain where they live with city officials.
Now the bargaining process is heading to arbitration, and Ravenstahl said the police might win.
“I’m also a realist and I do think that at some point in time given the actions at the state level and given the current arbitration system, that they may very well be successful," Ravenstahl said. "That’s just the reality of the situation.”
The three-member arbitration panel includes union appointee Bryan Campbell, city appointee Joseph Quinn and neutral panel member John Skonier.
Pittsburgh police argue that the requirement hurts recruitment and retention and prevents them from enrolling their children into better schools.
Some officials think the decision should not be made by the arbitrators, one being Pittsburgh Councilman Ricky Burgess, who believes Pittsburgh residents should decide.
He has introduced legislation to place the issue on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Burgess’s legislation would change the home rule charter to include the residency requirement.
Ravenstahl said he remains committed to do anything he can to keep the police living within the city.
“I will continue to evaluate what it is on our end that we can do to try to stop that, but in the event that it won’t be stopped, is there something that we can receive in return as a concession from the officers in the event that they’re allowed to move outside the city,” Ravenstahl said.