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Pittsburgh police, civilian employees to work convention

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By Michael Hasch and Bob Bauder
Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

At least five on-duty Pittsburgh police officers and two civilian employees have been assigned to help out during the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives' 37th convention in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

An undetermined number of other on-duty officers will assist with training seminars at the convention Aug. 3-7, acting city police Chief Regina McDonald said Tuesday.

The five on-duty officers and civilian employees — who work out of police headquarters — will assist with registration, check people in and out, ensure attendees have proper credentials and help others during seminars, McDonald said.

“We've had other conventions and meetings here involving various units and officers within the city,” she said. “It's not anything unique. We have done it in the past.”

McDonald said the officers will be paid their usual rate and that no overtime is anticipated. The yearly salaries of the employees range from $32,000 to $85,000, with the majority in the $60,000 and $70,000 range. Salaries paid during the convention will range from about $615 to $1,634 per officer.

The police bureau asked the Department of Public Safety to review arrangements for the conference, city solicitor Dan Regan said. “I believe we will be part of that review.”

Assistant Chief Maurita J. Bryant, who is national president of the organization, or NOBLE, said she has been involved in planning the convention for about five years.

“I personally really fought hard to bring the conference to Pittsburgh because so many people have a negative image of the city,” Bryant said.

“I have been going to NOBLE conferences since 1998, and when you mention Pittsburgh they think it's a smoky old town, a very racist town,” she said. “There was a Baptist convention here and people felt they were mistreated and that it was very racist here. That spread like wildfire.”

Bryant said she wants residents and visitors to mingle with law enforcement officials so they can see that policing is a proud profession.

McDonald said the convention is a training seminar that will bring together officers from throughout the United States as well as the United Kingdom, Africa and the Bahamas.

A former law professor who founded the Josephson Institute, an organization that studies and critiques police ethics, said he sees nothing wrong with on-duty officers staffing the convention.

“It doesn't disturb me,” said Michael Josephson from the institute in Southern California. “It's not uncommon for police to be dispatched whenever any group is in town for a parade or a conference. That's the number-one thing a city does. It's almost a professional courtesy.

“If this was a health department, it wouldn't surprise me to see health department employees playing a major role staffing tables. It would seem that the amount of money involved (in salaries) is somewhat moderate,” Josephson said.“It's unusual when I don't criticize police. I just think there's enough really bad stuff going on. If we start criticizing this, it feels to me like it's being petty.”

Michael Hasch and Bob Bauder are staff writers for Trib Total Media.

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