The question of whether Pittsburgh police officers should be required to live in the city goes before arbitrators in September.
But City Councilman Ricky Burgess believes that all voters in the city should have a say in the matter, not just the three members of the arbitration panel.
“I think that the arbitration, whatever the results are, will probably be appealed and come before a judge,” said Burgess, who is sponsoring legislation to put the issue on the November ballot.
A public hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday in Council Chambers. If the measure is passed and voters approve the ballot question, the residency requirement would become part of Pittsburgh’s home rule charter.
That requirement is already part of the city code, but it still might not matter because the legislature last year passed an amendment ending that stipulation. The Fraternal Order of Police then challenged the residency requirement, and the dispute has gone to arbitration.
Requests for comments from FOP Lodge #1 president Sgt. Mike LaPorte were unanswered at the time of publication.
Burgess said allowing officers to live outside the city sends a message of rejection.
“Part of the conversation is that they don’t want to live in the city, they don’t want their kids to go to the same schools or live in the same neighborhoods or shop the same stores or necessarily go to the same churches," Burgess said. "And I think that rejection is unfortunate, and I think it continues this disconnect and I think it threatens public safety.”
He said if police officers are allowed to live outside the city, it won’t stop there.
“I think if the police win this right, it will just be a matter of time when you see other unions filing for the same right and saying since the police have it, they have the right to have it too," Burgess said. "I just think you do not want police or anybody to be an occupying force. You want people who work for the city to be invested, completely invested in the city of Pittsburgh."
Burgess expects whatever the decision of the arbitrators that an appeal will be filed with Allegheny County Court and having citizens’ voices on record could help his argument … if they vote in favor of the residency requirement.