FOP rallies against cuts in number of city cops
The city wants to roll back benefits the cops won through arbitration.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Police union and labor leaders protested job cuts Monday in Pittsburgh, the birthplace of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Cuts under Act 47, the recovery plan for the financially distressed city, will jeopardize public safety, said Michael Havens Jr., president of the Pittsburgh police union.
"This is not just a police issue ... this is a labor issue," Havens said at the rally. Several hundred police from around the state attended the downtown rally, which was timed to coincide with a statewide police union conference.
The city and the Act 47 team are trying to gut organized labor by rolling back benefits won through arbitration, such as seniority and worker compensation, Havens said.
The police department has already had its budget cut by $40 million between 1990 and 2000, Havens said. The union is challenging the plan in court and the city's fire union has filed a similar suit.
The city's recovery plan, approved in June by Mayor Tom Murphy and city council, calls for $33 million in spending cuts along with $41 million in tax increases to bridge a projected $72 million budget shortfall in 2005.
The city and the state Department of Community and Economic Development, which oversees Act 47, haven't yet responded in court to the FOP's suit, but officials with the state agency have said the cuts are supported by state law.
Pittsburgh police union leaders say they are drafting legislation to fix what they maintain are problems with the recovery plan should the legal challenge fail.
The Pittsburgh police department has about 890 officers now, and about 90 are expected to retire at the end of the year. Chief Robert McNeilly said the city plans to hire at least 40 new officers to fill the vacancies.
That's a ratio of about one officer for every 368 residents.
For cities of comparable size, based on 2002 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau and the FBI, the ratio ranges from one officer for every 232 residents in St. Louis to one officer for every 497 residents in Toledo, Ohio.
Cincinnati has one officer for every 327 residents, and Minneapolis has one officer for every 349 residents.
Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, said the organization doesn't suggest a specific ratio of officers to citizens because there are too many variables.
But, he said, "There's nothing about Pittsburgh today that suggests they have too many officers.
"The mismanagement by the mayor of Pittsburgh is probably a poster child for mismanagement of public safety across the country" Pasco said.
"Things have gone from bad to worse to horrible and every time they do, the citizens of Pittsburgh are the ones hurt."
Murphy spokesman Craig Kwiecinski said, "the FOP doesn't have a monopoly on concern for the public safety" but declined to discuss the union's contentio ns about Act 47 because of the suit.