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PA Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Pittsburgh Police Residency Requirement Case

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The state Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in an appeal that could decide whether Pittsburgh police officers have to live in the city.

In 2012, the state legislature passed Act 195, which said a municipality may require officers to live in city limits. The previous statute said cities shall have a residency requirement.

A year later, Pittsburgh voters passed a referendum requiring residency.

The Fraternal Order of Police argued residency falls under the category of “working conditions” and is subject to collective bargaining.

“The legislature acted based on the FOP going to the legislature and asking for it to be changed … they changed it to ‘may,’” said FOP attorney Eric Stoltenberg. “They changed it to give us the right to bargain over it, because that’s what we asked them to do.”

After the union & the city reached an impasse on the issue, an arbitrator in 2014 said officers should be able to live within 25 miles of downtown Pittsburgh. The city appealed that decision in common pleas court, which upheld the decision. A subsequent appeal in Commonwealth court led to a reversal of the decision.

A lawyer for the city argued the decision of an arbitrator shouldn’t preempt state law or the wishes of the voters.

“We feel very strongly that the electorate has spoken and should be defended,” said attorney Clifford Levine. “We have great respect for the police, but we think that 80 percent of the electorate was correct in having every employee live in the city.”

Until the state Supreme Court makes its ruling, officers are required to live within city limits.