Arbitrator rules Pittsburgh police officers can live outside the city

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PITTSBURGH —

An arbitrator has ruled that Pittsburgh police officers can live outside the city, the union president said Thursday.

Sgt. Mike LaPorte, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1, said the ruling is effective immediately and allows officers to move up to 25 air miles from the City-County Building, Downtown.

"We have been in contact with the arbitrator and understand that while the award has not been signed, he will likely not be deciding in the city's favor," Mayor Bill Peduto said. "We have spoken to our outside labor counsel as well as our city attorneys, and we are reviewing our legal options."

FOP members testified before an arbitration panel last year, challenging the requirement that all city employees live inside the city. Voters passed a referendum in November that puts the residency requirement into the home-rule charter.

LaPorte said the union's contract permits officers to take the issue to arbitration despite city ordinance and the home-rule charter stipulations. He said the contract predated the November referendum.

The police union contends the residency requirement hinders recruiting and limits school choice options for children of officers, among other things.

Councilman Ricky Burgess of North Point Breeze sponsored the legislation that put the residency requirement on last November's ballot. He and supporters say officers should live in the neighborhoods they serve, and that doing so strengthens police-community relations.

Burgess has indicated the matter could eventually end up in court.

Channel 11's news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.