Pittsburgh officers argue against residency requirement

PITTSBURGH (AP) — An attorney representing Pittsburgh police told state Supreme Court justices Tuesday that officers want residency requirements removed for reasons of safety and quality education for their children.

Police union attorney Eric Stoltenberg said during oral arguments before the state’s highest court that officers who live in the city sometimes have to arrest juveniles who attend the same schools as their own children. Calling city public schools “really struggling,” he also said officers with autistic children have difficulty finding schools that can accommodate them.

The police union is challenging a requirement in effect since 1902 that officers live in Pittsburgh. The union contends that officers don’t have to live within the city to provide residents with quality public safety, and state law gives them the right to move out.

“These are professional police officers,” Stoltenberg said. “They don’t have to live here in order to be professional, and that’s the case across Pennsylvania.”

The city has repeatedly cited a 2013 referendum approved by 80 percent of voters that made the requirement a permanent part of Pittsburgh’s Home Rule Charter.

“We feel very strongly the electorate has spoken and should be defended,” city attorney Clifford Levine said.

An arbitration award in 2014 which was later upheld in county court said officers could live outside the city, but a state court in January said the 2013 referendum couldn’t be changed.

Stoltenberg called residency a “workplace condition” subject to collective bargaining. He argued that the state Legislature’s 2012 amendment to the Civil Service Act permitted the police union to negotiate the issue, and that supersedes the charter amendment.