Justice Department Picks Pittsburgh For a Program to Improve Community-Police Relations

Mar 13, 2015

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and US Attorney David Hickton discuss what they will say before a press conference held at Point State Park on Friday.

On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Pittsburgh is one of six cities designated as a pilot site for a national initiative to strengthen and improve the relationship between law enforcement and the community.

It's called the National Initiative for Building Community, and it’s a partnership between the Department of Justice and legal experts from institutions such as the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Yale Law School.

The initiative will involve training and policy development on bias reduction, procedural fairness, racial reconciliation and violence prevention.

“Pittsburgh was chosen not because we are a problematic community, but rather because we have shown our willingness and capacity and demonstrated our ability to work together to try to address existing social tensions,” said U.S. Attorney David Hickton, citing a police-community group his office formed in 2011.

Despite these efforts, community-police relations are still fraught with tension in Pittsburgh. Hickton said initiatives such as these will reduce those tensions.

“All of the communities in Pittsburgh and indeed all of Western Pennsylvania want aggressive and effective law enforcement," Hickton said. "They just want to be part of the discussion and part of it not the target of it."

The other selected cities are Birmingham, Alabama; Fort Worth, Texas; Gary, Indiana; Minneapolis, Minnesota and Stockton, California.

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay said he doesn’t know many details of the grant.

“I know that it's exactly what I needed however," he said. "I don’t if we’re going to be receiving money, but it's not so much money that we need. We need the guidance, the training and the expertise to help us improve our game so we can leverage those best practices."