Pittsburgh councilman releases police job records; groups seek input on new chief
Pittsburgh Councilman Patrick Dowd on Wednesday made public invoices listing hundreds of payments to police by businesses employing off-duty officers for security.
Dowd of Highland Park said he posted them online so that council members and city residents would know the extent of moonlighting, or secondary details, within the police bureau. The invoices cover 2009 to 2012.
For 2012, he estimated, officers worked 200,000 hours in off-duty jobs, compared to 900,000 hours on-duty.
“We as a council and as a community need to begin having a conversation about this,” Dowd said. “Do we want police officers to spend 200,000 (hours) a year at bars and restaurants?”
Not all council members want to meddle with the police bureau's operation, despite a federal investigation connected to the off-duty payments.
“I think it's very dangerous to have people with no formal training in law enforcement to micromanage the workings of a police department,” said Councilman Ricky Burgess of North Point Breeze.
An FBI investigation appears to focus on money that businesses paid to employ off-duty officers. The city is trying to determine if some of the money went to unauthorized accounts at the police credit union. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl cited the investigation in ousting Chief Nate Harper last week.
In 2012, restaurants, bars, construction companies, hotels, shopping malls and event organizers, including the Three Rivers Regatta, paid a combined $6.1 million to police officers working off-duty shifts.
Officers generally make about $30 an hour during off-duty assignments, though the amount varies.
In addition, the city last year collected $792,189 from a $3.85-an-hour administrative fee applied to each off-duty shift. That money was intended to cover litigation and workers compensation expenses if someone sues an off-duty officer or an officer is injured while moonlighting.
Questions have arisen about whether a portion of that administrative fee went to Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union accounts that were linked to debit cards issued in the names of Ravenstahl's three police bodyguards and at least two top police officials.
Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith of Westwood introduced legislation on Tuesday that would create a fund specifically for money paid to officers for off-duty work and the administrative fee. She plans to propose a bill next week that would create minimum staffing levels for each police station and a timing mechanism for hiring recruits to maintain levels.
“We have to avoid any appearances of impropriety and restore confidence in our police bureau,” she said. “Given the situation, everything has to be discussed.”
Community groups and several council members gathered in the City-County Building, Downtown, to urge Ravenstahl and council to weigh concerns about racial diversity in the police bureau and allegations of corruption when the mayor hires a chief. Council must confirm Ravenstahl's pick.
Aletheia Henry, Ravenstahl's campaign manager, said he wasn't at a Brookline candidates event Tuesday because his mother was ill. He also did not show at a North Side candidates night on Wednesday. A person speaking on his behalf said the mayor couldn't attend due to family issues.
Ravenstahl has said acting Chief Regina McDonald will serve during a search for Harper's replacement. He said he wants to hire someone with no connection to the city or department because of turmoil from the federal investigation.
“I will not vote for anyone who is a current or past member of the Pittsburgh police,” Burgess said. “I think we need a new set of eyes and a national expert in policing who can lead us in the future.”
Tim Stevens, who chairs the Black Political Empowerment Project, said the city needs a chief who is willing to hire more minority and female officers and work to improve relations between the department and residents, particularly those in black neighborhoods. He said the next chief must adhere to unbiased policing.
“We have an opportunity to move forward and create a new era in police and community relations that we've never seen before,” Stevens said.
Staff writer Bobby Kerlik contributed to this report. Bob Bauder and Jeremy Boren are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Boren can be reached at 412-320-7935 or email@example.com. Bauder can be reached at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers to retire Joe Greene’s jersey number
- Pirates’ Alvarez continues to sit, work on throwing woes
- Pittsburgh braces for waves of marches, demonstrations this week
- Lenders could move against Anchor Hocking as extension expires
- Starkey: Would one big move kill Pirates’ future?
- Steelers offensive linemen looking to build on strong 2013 finish
- Pirates inquire about Red Sox LHP Lester
- Temple dumps SAT, ACT scores from application process
- 6 cited for trespassing on UPMC property at union rally
- Western Pa. commission pitches $4.7 billion wish list to state
- 2 sentenced for avoiding arrest after Steelers player was stabbed