Police Chief: There are enough officers to work the Beyoncé concert

By Alexa Bakalarski / News Editor

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On Sunday night, Chief of Pittsburgh police Cameron McLay said there were enough officers to work Beyoncé’s upcoming concert, despite news that there would be a police boycott.

According to Robert Swartzwelder, the President of the Fraternal Order of Police in Pittsburgh, some city police officers did not want to work to the May 31 concert at Heinz Field because they objected to forced secondary employment shifts. He also said sentiments that Beyoncé is anti-police prompted some officers to object to covering the concert.

“I think some people are sensationalizing the issue because some officers have said that,” Swartzwelder said regarding news that police were boycotting Beyoncé specifically. “It’s a mix of both. Some officers don’t want to work second employment.”

Earlier this month, police officers said the department forced them to work secondary employment shifts — voluntary shifts where officers can earn extra money — for the Pittsburgh Marathon, which they said was illegal.

In a statement, McClay apologized to the officers, saying “far too many of you were required to work this event with inadequate notice.”

The Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police, the local branch of the police union, represents all of the approximately 850 officers in Pittsburgh’s police force.

According to the police officer’s contract, Swartzwelder said, working events like Beyoncé’s concert are voluntary and officers shouldn’t be forced to pick up voluntary hours.

For events like Beyonce’s concert, which Heinz Field is hosting, the organization hosting the concert requests that police officers staff it for security. If no officers volunteer to work the event, the host must find other officers to work it.

“If you force an officer to work a secondary labor shift, that’s unfair,” Swartzwelder said.

Private events, like the Beyonce concert, are different from working a normal shift, Swartzwelder said, because the officers stay at one venue, instead of moving to where an incident is taking place.

“When I’m working for the public, there’s no exclusivity,” Swartzwelder said.

In a statement released on Sunday night, McLay said that no on-duty officers will be assigned to work the Beyoncé concert, nor will any officers be forced to work the Beyoncé concert because the Pittsburgh Police Department has “secured sufficient volunteers” for the event.
“It is the City’s position this manner of scheduling is consistent with the collective bargaining agreement with the FOP,” McLay said in the release. “ As always, differences in interpretation of the contract can be disputed through the existing legal channels.”

Dale Shoemaker contributed reporting.

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