Activists are expected to urge the Allegheny County Council to create a civilian police review board on Tuesday.
The board would provide one means for increasing oversight of the county’s 106 municipal police departments – a cause that has gained traction since the fatal shooting of Antwon Rose by part-time East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld.
Khalid Raheem, who organizes the Committee for a Civilian Police Review Board of Allegheny County, said there’s long been a need for such a board, given the sheer number of municipal forces in Allegheny County.
“It lends itself to police corruption as well as brutality, as well as police misconduct,” Raheem said. “We need something that’s more centralized. We need police accountability for all the police departments throughout Allegheny County.”
Raheem said the committee has been meeting for the past 18 months. The proposed board would investigate complaints of police misconduct, much like Pittsburgh’s Citizen Police Review Board. Pittsburgh’s board consists of seven city residents, two of whom must have law-enforcement experience.
Raheem said he first called for a county-wide board a few years ago. At the time, he said, the rising cost of living had forced many city residents to move to outlying areas, where officers weren’t used to interacting with racial minorities.
“We thought that there probably would be some conflict, and there probably would be some static, especially in those particular boroughs and areas that have very few, if any, police officers of color,” Raheem said.
East Pittsburgh was known for racial tensions between police and citizens before Rose was shot, he said.
Activists plan to rally outside the City-County Building downtown ahead of county council's 5 p.m. meeting Tuesday, where community members are expected to speak in support of a civilian police review board.
Allegheny County Council Chief of Staff Ken Varhola said his office is studying council's possible authority to create the proposed board.
Lawmakers and others have called for additional measures to improve policing at the municipal level. The local chapter of the NAACP held a town hall in Rankin last month to call for consistent policies across area departments, and Sen. Jay Costa (D-Forest Hills) promised to introduce legislation to improve police training on cultural awareness and use-of-force.