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Laid-off officers take posts in suburbs

| Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003

Three laid-off City of Pittsburgh police officers have opted to take deep pay cuts and work part-time for suburban departments. But those officers soon could be headed back to their old jobs.

Most of the 75 officers laid off in August have opted to go on unemployment and await a possible deal between the Fraternal Order of Police and city administrators.

John Haring and Kevin Cary, who worked at the city's now-closed West End station, took part-time jobs paying $10.25 an hour in Coraopolis. Haring and former Pittsburgh Officer Johnny Ficorilli also picked up part-time posts in Kilbuck, making $10 an hour. All three officers declined to comment.

"They came in fully trained. You can't beat that," Coraopolis Manager Tom Celleste said.

Baldwin also could add a former city police officer to its force. The borough is screening applicants for a full-time patrolman at a salary of $46,000.

"We just gave the written test and the physicals are on Nov. 3," said Baldwin police Chief Chris Kelly.

Kelly said 105 people applied for the position, 85 showed up for the written test and 35 passed, including several ex-city officers.

"I think we have a desirable work place. We have competitive salaries, and we will select the best officer. I think most individuals will be very happy to work with us," Kelly said.

Before they were laid off, Haring, Cary and Ficorilli were paid $35,082 a year, the starting salary for city officers.

In August, Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy, citing budget constraints, closed the Zone 4, West End police station and laid off 96 police officers as part of sweeping layoffs and service cuts to conserve cash in the face of a projected $40 million budget deficit. Since then, about 20 officers have been rehired as older officers took early retirement.

FOP treasurer James Holiday said he knew of no other officers who had decided to take part-time jobs with other departments. FOP president Eugene Grattan declined comment on whether other officers are leaving the area or going to other departments, saying the union is focused on getting the officers' jobs back with the city.

"We're moving forward with finding the jobs (with the city)" Grattan said. "There will be arbitration on Dec. 16 and that is getting our full attention."

The FOP plans a special meeting today to reconsider Murphy's proposal to rehire the remaining officers in exchange for the union members giving up a scheduled 4 percent raise between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31.

Union officials earlier rejected the offer after rank-and-file members nixed the proposal in September without a full vote. Some union officials said it is not worth rehiring the officers who might only get laid off again. Some, however, said they want to get back to work regardless.

"Maybe we could lose our guys," Kilbuck police Chief Randy Ellison said. "But they're good officers, and I'd like to have them around for a while. I don't know if I'd want to go back and worry about losing my job again."

Freelance writer Kim Lawrence contributed to this report.

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