A common concern from residents and community groups in the neighborhoods I represent is the need to maintain or increase the police presence on our streets. With spending and hiring by the City of Pittsburgh tightly controlled by Act 47, I have introduced legislation that may allow municipalities facing budget constraints to provide more officers.

The Return to Service Act (House Bill 18), would allow retired police officers to return to part-time duty without losing their pension benefits. This bill would allow experienced officers to perform important police functions at greatly reduced cost, while freeing up active officers to keep our streets safe.

Current law prohibits retired officers from returning to police work while still collecting pension benefits. Under my bill, retired officers would be permitted to work up to 800 hours per year without losing benefits.

The rigors of full-time police work are taxing physically and mentally. But officers who retire in their 50s can still make great contributions with their knowledge and abilities. Returning officers could perform traffic control, community relations and confidential clerical work that cannot be done by civilians, among many other potential duties.

Similar programs in cities around the country have resulted in the return of hundreds of officers. I offer my thanks to Pittsburgh Police Commander Catherine McNeilly, who suggested this legislation.

Spending limits and budgetary challenges don’t change the need for greater police protection in our neighborhoods, and I believe that this legislation can be a major solution to the problem.