Three months after Pittsburgh began imposing a fee for the use of off-duty police, the money is rolling in, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Neither businesses, police, nor civil libertarians are entirely happy with the system, though, and it has veered from its stated purpose of building a fund to cover city liabilities. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s decision to impose a $3.85 an hour charge on businesses that hire off-duty police, on top of the $38.54 the officer usually commands, was prompted by an expensive settlement.
The city paid a Florida man $200,000 to settle a police brutality case related to a 2004 incident involving an officer providing security at a restaurant. The $3.85 fee, imposed starting April 9, has raised money. The city has billed for 45,463 hours of officer time. The Fraternal Order of Police asked the mayor to place the money in an account to cover lawsuits or injury claims rooted in police side work. That hasn’t happened. Assistant Chief Regina McDonald said a small portion of it is instead covering overtime stemming from court dates. Money from the side job fee also is going for uniforms, training and equipment, with some left over to defray injury claims or lawsuits.