Consolidation is overdue
A proposal to consolidate four police departments in the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh should have the support of every citizen who is concerned about the quality of policing in the region.
An in- depth analysis by the Pittsburgh Post- Gazette, published nearly two years ago, revealed extreme inequality in the resources and staffing of the 109 police departments in Allegheny County. Some officers were full time and brought home salaries of $ 71,000, while many were part time and earned as little as $ 10 per hour. The smaller and poorer communities, which might have the greatest need for police protection, often had inadequate staffing and poorly trained officers.
Moreover, due to low pay, turnover of officers in small municipalities is a constant problem.
Now, four municipalities in the Mon Valley — Braddock, East Pittsburgh, North Braddock, and Rankin — are considering combining their departments. The four currently have only two full- time officers among them; they also employ 31 part- time officers. A combined department could have 12 full- timers plus six part- time officers, hopefully resulting in greater professionalism.
This proposal has been developing gradually over two years. In spring 2019, the municipalities, which then included the tiny borough of Whitaker, asked the state to conduct a feasibility study. Now the study is complete, and borough officials have had plenty of time to consider this issue.
All four town councils must approve a resolution to move forward with the process. Thus far, two of the councils have approved, but Braddock and North Braddock have not taken action. Braddock’s council will vote next month.
Allegheny County is notorious for the large number of governmental entities within its borders and the inefficiency that they create. But worse than inefficiency is policing by individuals who are not properly trained and prepared. It puts both police officers and civilians at risk.
After a long and thoughtful process of considering it, the four municipalities should approve this consolidation as a rational and humane reform.