PITTSBURGH – Thirty members of the Pittsburgh Police Bureau made more than $100,000 for off-duty security details over three years, including one lieutenant who earned nearly $261,000, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Thursday.
The work is an official function of the force but authorities said they’re concerned about both the volume of largely unregulated cash and questions about how the lucrative work was assigned to officers.
In addition, the FBI has begun an investigation, and City Controller Michael Lamb is auditing the force’s Office of Special Events, which handled the off-duty work.
“When FBI agents are going through your paperwork, it’s a sign that the system’s broken,” Officer Robert C. Swartzwelder told the paper. He’s a member of the Fraternal Order of Police Labor Management Committee.
Last month, former police chief Nate Harper resigned after the FBI gathered boxes of records from the off-duty program from police headquarters.
The newspaper says the police Office of Special Events paid officers more than $17.4 million from Jan. 1, 2010, to Feb. 22, 2013. About two-thirds of the 850-member force work special details for events, businesses and construction projects. One married couple made more than $250,000. The figures don’t include officers’ regular wages, overtime or money they make from separate jobs.
Top benefactors of off-duty details are officers known as “schedulers,” who act as liaisons between the department and bar owners, merchants and event planners who rely on moonlighting cops for security, the paper reported. The bureau collected nearly $2.3 million in fees from these firms between 2010 and 2012.
Sgt. William G. Haines Jr. of the night felony section, who collected $172,129, told the Tribune-Review he built relationships with businesses such as The Bank of New York Mellon and Bakery Square, which trust him to schedule off-duty officers.
“We’re bringing in money for the city, and we’re not doing anything but helping defray manpower issues,” said Haines, of the South Side. “I don’t understand why the city grimaces at what we’re doing.”
Several officers say they would not need to earn special detail pay if the city hiked base wages.
City Councilman Patrick Dowd criticized the amount of time officers spend on off-duty jobs. He wants the bureau to quit sending uniformed personnel to work outside strip joints, a practice Harper’s administration allowed.
“I’ve heard experienced officers in the bureau say to me that secondary details are the downfall of the bureau,” said Dowd, a Democrat from Highland Park. “I might not go so far as that, but I do think that because of secondary details, the bureau is out of balance.”