The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has ruled out on Monday that Pittsburgh police officers can live in the suburbs of the city.
The highest court of the state upheld an arbitration panel’s 2014 decision permitting officer to live within 25 air miles of City-County Building, Downtown.
Pittsburgh officers have battled the city law for years, which is a century-old requirement that Pittsburgh employees must live within the city limits, commonly termed as the residency requirement.
The president of Fraternal Order of Police Fort (FOP) Pitt Lodge 1, Robert Swartzwelder said: It's a great victory for the police officers of the city of Pittsburgh."
"I also think it's a great victory for the citizens, because now you'll be able to hire police officers within a 25-mile air radius of the City-County Building."
Pittsburgh Mayor, Bill Peduto released a statement noting that Pittsburgh residents overwhelmingly approved a referendum in 2014 making the residency requirement part of the city's Home Rule Charter.
The city appealed the arbitrator's ruling to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, which sided with the panel, and later to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, which overturned the county court decision. The FOP appealed to the Supreme Court.
Mayor said: "The people of Pittsburgh expressed overwhelming support for the residency requirement and we want our police officers to continue to live in the neighborhoods and communities that they serve."
"We defended the will of the residents of Pittsburgh, all the way to the Supreme Court, believing that the law that allowed Pittsburgh to become a Home Rule Charter city should have taken precedence."
According to Mayor’s spokesperson Katie O’Malley, the city is talking with the Law Department about a possible appeal.
In a 18-page opinion the Supreme Court ruled that a 2012 change in the state law that permitted the FOP to negotiate for an end of the residency requirement and that the state law superseded the amendment to Pittsburgh's charter.
"... Our case law has clarified that residency is a mandatory subject of bargaining," Justice Sallie Updyke Mundy wrote in the opinion. "Accordingly, the home rule charter provision requiring residency is at odds with an act of statewide application."
Justices Thomas G. Saylor, Max Baer, Christine Donohue, Kevin M. Dougherty and David N. Wecht agreed.
Swartzwelder said police officers would likely move out of the city, but not in a mass exodus.
"You're going to get a steady exodus," he said. "I'm not moving. I like where I live."