On the surface, seeing off-duty policemen lounging around in one of Pittsburgh’s bars, businesses or topless bars in uniform and “on the take” (cash please, if you don’t mind too much) with the written approval of their superiors does not seem to generate much concern from the average citizen of Pittsburgh any more. This practice, after all, has been slowly growing like a cancer on the City for decades. I have even heard comments that seem to indicate a general lack of concern that this activity is illegal, because (as the comments go) “after all, doesn’t that keep the streets so much more safe?”
Let’s follow that thought through.
In addition to policemen, the city of Pittsburgh also has men and women of many other vocations employed. City works director Guy Costa, for example, has truck drivers, plumbers, backhoe operators, cement finishers and asphalt layers on city payroll. As far as I know, these city employees are effective and efficient; they do a good job – just like most of the police, while they work on city time.
If one embraces the “morality” (it is still illegal) of the off-duty police protection racket, then one should have absolutely no problem with any of Guy Costa’s backhoe workers taking the backhoe home on a trailer pulled with a city truck, and using this rig, and city gas, to do any amount of construction work “off-duty” that they can sell on the phone while working on city time, pocketing the money they earned using city assets.
What a DEAL! The city worker need not have insurance or bonding; who needs it, except for the poor private contractors, who are not backed by pals in the City?
Like the police, who sometime make costly mistakes off duty that the city pays for, if this backhoe work goes wrong and someone sues, or if there is an accident where someone from the public is hurt while the backhoe is being operated for private profit “off-duty”… it should be the City (read: “TAXPAYERS”) who should foot the total bill, right?
We also have lots of uniformed and well-equipped firemen that work for the city, that like our police, have access to the very best of city owned radios, vehicles and training.
Now, understand, the Pittsburgh police have managed in a very sneaky and self-serving manner to get someone in the city to make it a condition of some assembly permits and construction permits, that the permit applicant hires and pays OFF-DUTY police staff very high wages, to stand around and provide illegal guard services. If these permit applicants want to hire their own licensed, insured, bonded and trained security professionals ( my company is one of these licensed guard agencies), they are denied this option, they MUST use and pay off duty police staff, even if it is illegal for the off duty police officers to contract to do this work.
So, why leave the OTHER departments and city employees out of this great deal - if you think this type deal is legal?
If anyone within the Cities control wants to get a permit to re-do their driveway, or to dig a hole, why shouldn’t the Public Work’s employees get one of their insider’s somewhere in the city to make it illegal for ANYONE to use someone other than an off duty city works department employees, at time and a half or higher .. pay the truck driver, please, cash if you don't mind? You are a construction company who counts on work from the city of Pittsburgh area ?? Well, you can find something else to do for a living .. YOU are no longer needed in the City .. “our guys” can handle this work here, from now on!
What about having empty warehouses and commercial buildings, along with any gathering place with more than 50 people in it at one time, being forced by some new ordinance that would make it MANDATORY to have them hire off-duty uniformed city firemen to stand around for cash under the table .. after all, we WOULD be safer, too – what a WIN WIN! And, these hard working fireman guys of “ours” could use a little extra folding cash for the family, couldn't they? Licensed fire alarm companies do the same job cheaper and legally, you say? Who cares .. they can get their work outside our City .. “our guys” will be handling this fire-protection work from now on!
And, guess what? “We” (the City) also have accountants, painters, drivers, lawyers, engineers, architects, typists, food workers ……. Why should THEY be left out of this great Public employee/Private work racket?
..... AND, our poor uniformed meter maids. If law and order for the community and concern for overtime income for "our" people are things that should govern our actions .. What would be wrong with allowing those meter maids to keep on their uniforms, print out their own parking tickets (mail the fee to their home, not the traffic court) and do their "official job" off duty, and after hours, for their own private monetary benefit?
If only "we" don’t get caught …. just THINK about all the wonderful things "we" could do, in this Great City.
Maybe this is why many people say the best view in Pittsburgh is the one in the rear view mirror of your U-Haul truck, as you depart for safer and more free places.