Council Raises Mandatory Retirement Age For Pittsburgh Police

PITTSBURGH, PA — Pittsburgh police will have five more years before they must retire from the force.

City council voted 6-0 Tuesday to raise the mandatory retirement age from 65 to 70 years, adopting a recommendation from Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration.

“It’s very minimal cost,” Councilman Corey O’Connor said. He said administration estimates put the added expense around $13,000 to $16,000 annually for the next few years.

Council members Bruce Kraus and Deborah Gross were absent for the vote. The seat representing council District 8, in the East End, is vacant pending the outcome of a March 6 special election.

Dozens of members of the roughly 900-strong police force had been facing mandatory retirement by 2023, including 25 officers, 11 detectives and 10 sergeants, according to the Department of Public Safety.

Raising the compulsory retirement threshold should help keep experience in the ranks, Wendell Hissrich, the public safety director, has said. He said some city officers, upon reaching age 65, have gone to work for other police departments.

Also Tuesday, council couldn’t muster enough votes to approve a three-year contract with the Downtown-based law firm Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky. The proposed agreement would pay Strassburger McKenna as much as $300,000 to help the city update tax forms, policies and ordinances related to business taxes — and to keep the firm on retainer.

Council voted 4-2 in favor of the arrangement, but that’s one vote shy of the minimum needed to pass the legislation. Members Darlene Harris and Theresa Kail-Smith cast the dissenting votes.

“I have concerns about the amount of contracts and consulting work that we’re hiring. That’s it,” Mrs. Kail-Smith said later.

Mrs. Harris said that the city already has employees “who are hired to do this kind of work.” The Peduto administration, which sought the Strassburger McKenna contract, has said the city law department doesn’t have the expertise to handle the task internally.

Administration officials will likely discuss resubmitting the legislation, Peduto spokesman Timothy McNulty said.

Erika Strassburger, the District 8 council candidate endorsed by Mr. Peduto, has said she would abstain from any council discussion or votes involving Strassburger McKenna if she’s elected. Her spouse is a partner at the firm, where several lawyers and shareholders have contributed to Ms. Strassburger’s campaign.

In other business Tuesday, council approved legislation to foster an Entrepreneur Support Fund. Passed on a 6-0 vote, the measure directs the Urban Redevelopment Authority to craft the program and offer grants, loans or other help to qualifying new businesses. Mr. O’Connor brought up the idea earlier this month.

From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette