Between Scott Schubert's recent appointed as Pittsburgh's new police chief and President Donald Trump's vow to be a “law and order" president, Pittsburgh Director of Alliance for Police Accountability Brandi Fisher is very busy.
90.5 WESA’s Virginia Alvino Young spoke with Fisher about the changes she’d like to see in policing and the community’s surge of interest in her organization’s work.
Fisher's comments have been edited for length and clarity.
On Pittsburgh City Council’s recent approval of Mayor Bill Peduto’s choice of Scott Schubert as police chief:
Chief Schubert has stated that he would like to continue the path that our previous Chief Mclay has laid before us. Chief Schubert, we’re still building a relationship with him, still getting to know him. He has been very responsive and accessible to our organization. I just wish that we would have stuck with the whole selection process that we stuck with the first time.
And in the begging, we really didn’t want that but once we seen the process and we had Chief McLay as our chief, we also seen the benefit. And the benefit was he was totally disconnected from any previous network that existed, which let him be authentic, courageous and bold in his decision making, and standing up against the FOP when there was opposition to progress and change that needed to take place. And we’re just not so sure that we’re going to have that same thing when it comes to Chief Schubert, because he already has relationships with people, he already has been here for years, while all of these things were occurring that we weren’t so pleased with.
On changes she would like to see within the police department:
We have made great strides when it comes to community and police relations and I think that McLay had some grave opposition to some internal changes that were necessary. And we are looking to make sure that those internal issues are continued to be addressed when it comes to hiring practices, when it comes to promoting and also when it comes to accountability.
On the Alliance for Police Accountability’s campaign to end the use of police dogs against citizens, first launched in response to the killing of Bruce Kelley Jr. last year:
Bruce Kelley Jr.’s killing was horrific for his family and also for the state of community and police relations, but it also highlighted some very important places that we need to do work in. One is making sure that our police officers in all departments are prepared when they encounter individuals with mental health issues. We cannot continue to incarcerate individuals who have mental health issues. It is not only unjust, it’s also inhumane. The other is using police dogs to attack people. We have a law, this Rocco’s Law that was implemented. People if they try to defend themselves against a dog once they’re being attacked, it gives them this automatic 10 years added onto a sentence. Anyone who’s being attacked by any animal, particularly a dog, is going to try to defend themselves. It’s not a good practice for the dogs, because they often end up hurt. And it’s also not a good practice for human beings, who we are not even sure they are guilty of anything. And so that’s something we are very optimistic about getting passed. But with the recent election with President Trump, there has been a ground swell of interest in, "What can I do?"
On President Donald Trump’s rhetoric concerning the "American carnage" occurring in U.S. cities; over the past few decades, statistics show that violent crime has actually declined across the country and in Pittsburgh:
We definitely are concerned, but we’re also prepared. Trump also talked about re-instituting stop and frisk, and it’s something we are totally against. He talks about this "law and order." Our country kind of pushes this fear on everybody, so they want tough on crime laws. But sometimes this fear is just a false fear. Some politicians have a habit of having this rhetoric where we are instilling fear in citizens to make them think that some of these policies and laws are necessary.