Editorial: Police, firefighters, should be Pittsburgh residents

By The Pitt News Editorial Staff

Next Tuesday, voters in the city of Pittsburgh will have the chance to vote on a referendum that could change the language of the city’s Home Rule Charter to require all firefighters and policemen to reside within city borders.

Presently, Pittsburgh’s Civil Service Commission regulations state that all civic officials are required to live within Pittsburgh’s city borders. However, the language of the Home Rule Charter, which allows the city to make decisions free of the mediation of state legislature, says that civil officials can, but are not required, to live within city limits.

As students who make this city our home, it is unsettling to think that those we depend on to keep us safe do not also reside in the city like us. Voting in favor of a change in the language of the charter will ensure that our civic officials have a larger stake in the city they are protecting than merely their jobs — they will be protecting their own neighborhoods.

Last year, state legislature passed a bill that allowed the mayor and City Council to put aside the residency requirement. City police officers have argued against the mandate for years, citing it as a reason why many officers find jobs with suburban departments. Many officers agree that the main reason for this is that they do not want their children attending Pittsburgh public schools and opt for suburban school systems while still being able to work in the city.

City Councilman Ricky Burgess suggested the referendum that will appear on ballots next week, stating that having the city vote on the changes to the charter will allow the city to defend it. All changes to the charter must be made and approved by voters, not by the legislature.

If people work for the city of Pittsburgh, they should be a part of the city of Pittsburgh. Just like the mayor and members of city council, policemen and firefighters should also be a part of the city they protect. Those in civil service positions automatically become more invested in the community if they are part of the community, as well. Living within city borders means that firefighters and policemen will be keeping their own communities safe.

Voting in favor of changing the language of Pittsburgh’s Home Rule Charter can make sure that those who work in the city are a part of the city in more ways than solely their jobs. They will be responsible for serving their own communities.