PITTSBURGH, PA – Pittsburgh police union leaders say the city owes about $100,000 in unpaid overtime to officers who stayed an extra hour while working security at bars in the South Side for the past few months.
Police brass this summer ordered officers working private details for taverns until 2 a.m. to remain in the South Side and respond to calls until 3 a.m. to deal with drunken crowds after the bars closed.
Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1 President Michael LaPorte said that order violated the officers’ contracts with bars. The union filed a grievance because the city did not pay officers who worked until 3 a.m. the four hours of overtime LaPorte said they are owed for being called on duty. The union collected overtime cards from the officers until officials this month rescinded the order to stay.
Police spokeswoman Diane Richard referred questions about the details to the special events office. Assistant Chief Regina McDonald, who oversees the office, declined comment. Public Safety Director Michael Huss was out of town and could not be reached.
“I said this has the potential to spiral out of control,” LaPorte said. “If we win, what have we won?
“The ultimate goal is to work out some goal as to providing public safety measures in the South Side.”
The dispute occurs on the heels of “Blackout Wednesday,” the day before Thanksgiving and one of the busiest drinking nights of the year, in part because returning college students head out to bars to reunite with high school friends.
Richard said police will blanket East Carson Street by deploying eight officers to the South Side — twice the usual number — between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.
LaPorte said he doesn’t believe the extra hour the officers worked make a difference in controlling the bar scene there.
“What do you get for $100,000?” LaPorte said. “Nothing.”
Bar owners received a letter this summer informing them they had to pay their detail officers until 3 a.m., said Michael Papariella, owner of Casey’s Draft House and president of the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association.
Some of the bars paid the officers for the extra hour, and others did not, he said.
“We ended up kind of in between the union and city police battle,” Papariella said. “We’re business owners, and we’re trying to help the community as best we can.”
Papariella said Casey’s is gearing up for Wednesday with extra staff.
“Now the city (is) starting to see they need extra security, extra product and extra staff,” Papariella said. “There’s a positive swell to it.”