Government & Politics
8:14 am
Mon December 24, 2012

B-PEP Wants Black Male on Citizen Police Review Board

Pittsburgh Council has sent to the mayor the names of two residents to be considered to fill the open seat on the Citizen Police Review Board (CPRB), the panel that investigates Pittsburghers' allegations of police misconduct.

Council's nominees are Maurice Dickey and Karen McLellan; both are retired Pittsburgh police officers. The seat must be held by a law enforcement professional.   There's been no response from the mayor's office on which one, if either, he will accept.

Richard Carrington resigned from the CPRB in July and that agency's executive director Elizabeth Pittinger says according to a city ordinance the vacancy should have been filled in September. Carrington is the founder and executive director of Voices Against Violence, an at-risk youth advocacy non-profit.  More than five months after he left the board the seat remains open. 

The vacancy created by Carrington's departure means there are no African American males on the CPRB.  Tim Stevens, the CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP), is calling on council and the mayor to make sure the vacancy is filled by a black male and Stevens supports Dickey for the post.   The board is currently comprised of four white males and two African American women.

Stevens says because most of the "negative interactions" between Pittsburgh police and citizens occur between officers and black males, the final seat on the CPRB should be filled by an African American male "who may bring to the table a little different perspective than even black females and white males will, of course," said Stevens.  "That's our logic and we think that's an  appropriate logic in this situation because of the high sensitivity between the police and black males in the city."

In 1975 there was a predominance of white males in the police department and in response to a lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Maurice Cohill ordered that police recruits be hired in groups of four: a white male, a white female, a black male and a black female.  As the makeup of the police force became more balanced, Cohill lifted the order in 1991.

The racial makeup of the department is now 70 percent white, 30 percent black while 75 percent of the police force is male.  But now Stevens believes the police force is getting "whiter" again and that's another reason to have a black man on the Review Board.

"So that everybody comes to the table and presents their information, their perspectives, maybe a thought that people would never think about," said Stevens.  "So the presence of an African American male on the CPRB in a city that is over 25 percent African American is nearly a must."