When Pittsburgh’s public safety officials asked for volunteers to help staff the Presidential Inaugural Parade, more than 50 police officers raised their hands, according to acting Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert.
Schubert said the Capitol's metro police department, which is charged with securing the route, originally requested more than 20 officers but the department felt 15 was a more manageable number. The city asked the Fraternal Order of Police for permission to chose the officers on criteria other than seniority.
“If you go straight by seniority, then you may have a lot going from one station which could (negatively) impact the services we could provide,” Schubert said.
The officers will be pulled from every zone and from several details, he said.
“I also want our contingent of officers on this voluntary detail to be reflective of the Pittsburgh police and the city of Pittsburgh,” Schubert said.
Pittsburgh City Council gave preliminary approval Wednesday for 13 officers and two supervisors to travel to D.C. on Jan. 18, two days ahead of the Friday inauguration, and return on Jan 21. A final vote is expected Tuesday.
The officers will be sworn in as temporary Deputy U.S. Marshals for the parade and paid by D.C. Metro at their hourly Pittsburgh rate. The Capitol force also incurs all liability from any potential lawsuits that could arise from traveling officers' work.
Council members voiced concerns about the officers' safety during the event, which is expected to draw same-day protests. Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said Wednesday that he's confident there will be no issues, and the officers' training will serve them well.
Schubert said the city has a history of loaning and borrowing officers for national events, including to Cleveland during the Republican National Convention in July. He said he expects to fulfill similar requests in the coming months.
“I’m sure there’s going to be times in the future where we’ll be called upon again to host a special security event,” Schubert said. “I know there’s talks even in the near future for a Super Bowl.”
Hissrich said, along with this being the right thing to do as part of the greater law enforcement community, it’s also good for the department.
“Going to these special events, it’s also a learning process for us because we learn how (other departments) handle similar situations that we may face in the future.”