Westmoreland County commissioners may have been trying to keep former President Donald Trump safe, but they decided to help bolster patrols for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
County Park Police will be on hand at the team’s summer training camp, which began Tuesday at Saint Vincent College in Unity.
The move comes at the request of the Steelers, according to county commissioners.
“We will work to patrol the area and for added security,” Commissioner Gina Cerilli Thrasher said.
Park Police Chief Henry Fontana declined to discuss details about how many officers will be assigned to work during camp, which draws thousands of fans to afternoon workouts at the school’s Chuck Noll field. Fontana said the Steelers agreed to reimburse the county on an hourly basis to cover the cost of having officers at the college through Aug. 19.
Officers assigned to boot camp will earn overtime and their regular patrols will not be affected, Fontana said. This is the first time the park police will work at the training camp, he added.
Monday’s decision by commissioners comes two months after they rejected an attempt by Sheriff James Albert to assign his deputies to a political rally when former President Donald Trump came to the county fairgrounds to support Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz. The county’s attorney and director of human resources challenged the plan and said there were liability issues for sheriff’s deputies working on private property.
At the 11th hour, Albert ignored the commissioners’ orders and assigned eight deputies to work the event and later accused “unelected bureaucrats” of ceding too much power to the county government.
Albert declined to comment on the commissioners’ decision to allow park police to work at the boot camp.
The county attorney on Tuesday defended the flip-flop over private property security details.
“In this situation, the county followed its usual procedure to put an agreement in place. The county was approached well in advance and given the opportunity to resolve any potential liability issues prior to approval at a public meeting,” said Melissa Guiddy.
Representatives for St. Vincent declined to comment. A Steelers spokesperson said the team hires police officers to provide security at each training camp.
Although the park troopers have full police powers over county property, they will not have the authority to make arrests at boot camp. The commissioners said officers will need to summon the state police — which has jurisdiction in the township — to make formal arrests.
“We are going to be there and be visible,” Commissioner Sean Kertes said.
Park Police generally patrol all 10 county parks and provide security at the county courthouse. Officers also work at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, Westmoreland County Community College and the County Transportation Authority station in Greensburg.
The department has approximately 27 full-time officers and 11 part-time officers.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, email@example.com or via Twitter .