By Andy Sheehan / http://www.pittsburgh.cbslocal.com
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Seven years ago, former Pittsburgh police detective Tim Hohos left the streets of Pittsburgh for the slower-paced patrols of the northern Allegheny County suburbs.
These days, he has quite a bit of company. Today, there are nine former Pittsburgh police officers working for the nearby McCandless Police Department.
Over in Ross Township, there were seven ex-city officers patrolling those suburban streets.
And the list goes on. There are two in Franklin Park and two more in Monroeville.
It comes as no shock to Hohos.
“No, it doesn’t surprise me that people leave. I think it’s just to better themselves — to put them in a better position,” he said.
And now it appears this exodus may just be getting started. At least 200 current Pittsburgh police officers have signed up to take the Allegheny County police entrance exam at the end of the month. The police union puts that number at more than 300 — about a third of the bureau.
Union president Dan O’Hara blames six years of state-mandated budget cuts.
“Holding down wages, holding down benefits and making the working conditions much more difficult than they need to be,” he said.
“It is disturbing to see that many officers wanting to move on,” said Chief Nate Harper, who concedes that the Pittsburgh police which had been some highest-paid in the county are now on the lower end, but says that won’t be changing any time soon.
“We are looking at different ways other than money to look at different ways of enticing officers to stay,” he added.
That would include allowing officers to work a four-day week, but the union says discontent goes deeper. Many officers don’t like their required residency in the city and the doubt quality of city schools for their kids.
Said O’Hara: “Many officers don’t feel that the school system adequately provides a good education — or the best education – and so on the back end they end they have to pay for private schooling.”
Harper countered: “My daughters went through the public school system and they did very well and it’s what you make of it.”
Harper says the city is not considering getting rid of the residency requirement and says while more dangerous, big city policing can be more challenging than suburban work and quite a few officers want back in.
“We’ve had officers that felt the grass was greener and found out the grass wasn’t greener when they left,” Harper said.