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10% of Pittsburgh police eye jobs with county department

| Sunday, May 4, 2014, 9:10 p.m.

At least 10 percent of Pittsburgh police are looking for a job with another department.

Ninety-three city officers took the written test in March to become Allegheny County police officers, according to documents the Tribune-Review obtained. Pittsburgh's department has 887 officers, including 52 recruits, Acting Chief Regina McDonald said.

“We have officers taking tests with the county, with the sheriff, with surrounding municipalities and federal agencies,” McDonald said. “We don't panic because people put in applications.”

City officers cite better pay and the ability to live outside the city when taking jobs with suburban departments. Starting salary for a county police officer is $51,364 a year, but it increases to $77,995 after 18 months of service. The starting rate for a city police officer is $42,548. A fourth-year officer makes $60,779, according to the 2014 city budget.

Of the 93 officers, 32 have worked for the city less than 15 years; six of those are from the last two recruit classes. Officers generally become eligible to retire after 20 years of service.

“This day and age, young people seek opportunities,” McDonald said. “It doesn't matter what profession you're in. You don't have the commitment or the loyalty that people did when I came on. It was natural for officers to stay on for 30 to 35 years.”

County police Superintendent Charles Moffatt, a former Pittsburgh officer, referred comment to county spokeswoman Amie Downs. She said there are 11 open posts, but retirements can change that. Twenty-two former city officers work for county police, she said.

“Officers, period, are good candidates because of their experience, but they do not receive any special consideration because they are/were officers with another law enforcement entity,” Downs said. “The process is a civil service one.”

In March, former Pittsburgh police Lt. Kevin Kraus retired to join the Allegheny County Sheriff's Department. He is among 22 officers who retired, resigned or faced termination from the city force this year. In 2013, 54 officers left the city department, according to the police pension board.

Ten veteran recruits — those with experience as police — will begin field training on Monday, McDonald said. Four will start later. Thirty-eight basic recruits will finish training early next year. Police plan to start another class in the fall of at least 22 recruits, she said.

“We've been dealing with this for years, and I think we're trying to stay ahead of the ball,” McDonald said.

“We're doing everything we possibly can to keep our budgeted strength.”

Margaret Harding is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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