South Side, 2009. Bill Wade/PG photo
It looks like Pittsburgh's FOP hasn't gotten the memo out of Wisconsin -- not to mention Harrisburg -- on the tensions between government and unions these days. This year alone it has provoked a criminal probe of a fake news release regarding the police beating of Homewood teenager Jordan Miles, and threatened not to staff the New Year's Day Winter Classic hockey game. Now it is threatening not to staff off-duty security jobs during St. Patrick's Day parade festivities -- among the largest in the nation -- come March 12, as well as future major city events.
The reason? Because the Ravenstahl administration appealed an arbitrator's decision to reinstate Sgt. Eugene Hlavac, who was found not guilty of domestic violence but who, the city contends, violated the city's zero-tolerance policy on domestic abuse.
Police brass says everything will be fine, and they can adequately staff the parade with on-duty and overtime personnel. (Besides, police have started cracking down on open container laws at the parade, including at the formerly Mardi Gras-type scene in Market Square.) But it's the shrill and tone-deaf message that the FOP keeps sending that is cause for concern.
The nation has looked to the local FOP before, particularly after the fatal shootings of three officers in 2009, which should be the most powerful argument of all for government employees, their service, their union powers, and what the public owes them.
We'll see what role, if any, they play when union changes come out of Harrisburg. Maybe they won't have to worry, because if you remember they're not against all parades -- the local FOP hosted Tom Corbett at last year's Democratic-dominated Labor Day Parade festivities.