A second Allegheny County borough is considering disbanding its police force | TribLIVE.com
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Theresa Clift

East Pittsburgh isn’t the only small Allegheny County municipality grappling with whether to keep its police force.

North Braddock Mayor Tom Whyel told the Tribune-Review on Thursday that the borough is in negotiations to have Allegheny County provide police protection there.

The borough’s police department employs 11 part-time officers and a full-time police chief, Whyel said.

With an annual budget of about $550,000, the department lacks the money to hire full-time officers, which leads to a lot of turnover, Whyel said. The maximum salary for an officer there is about $15 an hour.

“We train people for six to seven months. We endure those costs. The next thing you know, they’re gone,” Whyel said. “It’s a revolving door. It never stops. It’s been going on that way for close to 20 years now.”

Whyel said the borough once interviewed a candidate for a police officer job on a Friday, and by Tuesday, he had accepted a full-time job at another police department.

“He went there for better pay and medical benefits, which is often the case,” Whyel said.

Borough officials began meeting with county officials to discuss the idea roughly six months ago, prior to the June 19 fatal police shooting of unarmed teen Antwon Rose by East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld, Whyel said.

Rose had been riding in a car matching the description of one involved in an earlier drive-by shooting in North Braddock.

County officials have visited North Braddock three times to analyze the facilities and calculate a cost for the contract, Whyel said. The most recent visit was about two months ago, Whyel said.

Borough officials are now waiting for county officials to propose a cost, Whyel said. He expects that to happen by the end of the year. The proposal would then go to the borough’s council and the County Council for approval.

If a proposal goes to the borough council for consideration, Council Vice President Michael Dobrinich believes it will pass.

“I’m pretty sure the majority of (members) will (pass it) because of what’s been going on in our police department for the past year or so,” Dobrinich said. “We’ve had some officers not responding and a few other things.”

East Pittsburgh officials are also considering contracting with the county for police services.

County police have provided police services for the nearby borough of Wilmerding under a contract signed in 2016. That small municipality at the time agreed to pay the county $250,000 the first year and increases of 3 percent the following years plus a portion of fines and fees.

Allegheny County Manager William McKain has had meetings to talk about “working together to provide government services,” but declined to name who he has met with, he said in an email to the Trib via county spokeswoman Amie Downs.

County Controller Chelsa Wagner Thursday sent out a news release suggesting the county police train the officers in all municipalities through its police academy and make sure municipalities are training officers under the most current use-of force- practices from the Police Executive Research Forum, among other requests.

Downs did not respond to a request for comment on Wagner’s suggestions.

District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. has scheduled a meeting with several police departments in the county Saturday to make sure are using the most up-to-date policies, according to the East Pittsburgh council agenda from Tuesday.

Zappala said in June East Pittsburgh police did not have any policies. Mayor Louis Payne said last month the department has policies, but “they might not have been updated the way they should have been.”

Zappala Spokesman Mike Manko said the Saturday meeting will be held to “discuss some law enforcement issues with elected officials and police officials.” He declined to provide details until after the meeting.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Theresa at 412-380-5669, [email protected] or via Twitter @tclift.

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