Pittsburgh City Council will hold a post-agenda meeting and public hearing Wednesday, March 6 to discuss what qualities should be sought in the next Pittsburgh Chief of Police.
The hearing was arranged at the request of the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) in conjunction with several supporting organizations to address relations between the community and the police, said Tim Stevens, chairman and CEO of B-PEP.
“Over the years there have been major incidents, and at times, even tragedies between the police and community. There has been a history, at times, of negative interaction. The goal of many of us is to bridge the gap between the community and the police,” said Stevens.
Following the resignation of former police chief Nate Harper, and in the midst of a rearranged mayoral field, there are new opportunities to discuss expectations for the police. At such a juncture, Stevens said, thoughts from the public are important.
“The police have a very difficult job to do. It’s quite often dangerous. It’s a job that requires a certain sensitivity as well as certain toughness. And it is a job that not all people are appropriate for,” said Stevens. “Their style of operation may not contribute to a positive interaction with the public.” He added, however, that community members hold equal responsibility as the police to ensure amicable relations.
A post-agenda meeting will begin at 1 PM. Though open to the public, only invited organizational representatives will be called upon to speak, presenting council with what their constituents hope to see from the next police chief, and the police in general.
At 2 PM community members will be given a chance to speak for up to three minutes, interested persons must call the Office of the City Clerk before 10 AM tomorrow.
Stevens hopes that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl will attend, despite his decision not to run for re-election. The current mayoral candidates have been invited; so far Councilman Bill Peduto has confirmed. It is unclear whether a representative from the police bureau will attend.
After the hearing, B-PEP will assess what came out of the hearing, compile key thoughts, and send them to the mayor.
“One of the most sensitive areas of interaction between local government and the citizens is through the bureau of police, between the public and a police officer or police officers. So that’s an arena that needs to be looked at very closely,” said Stevens.
Assistant Chief Regina McDonald is serving as interim chief while a search for a permanent chief continues.