Last week, Pittsburgh City Council gave preliminary approval to Councilman Ricky Burgess's bills to reform the police bureau's domestic violence response policies. One bill pays for training under the "Maryland Domestic Violence Lethality Assessment Program," and the second bill changes the city code to reflect the new policies. A final vote comes Tuesday.
When receiving a 911 call regarding domestic violence, responders must ask the callers a series of questions to determine the risk of imminent harm to the victim. Afterward, the officers must offer to call a women's shelter to help the victim.
But the package of bills did not include a requirement for responding officers to speak with the person who made the call when they arrive at the scene. And there's no proposed amendment to eliminate the "no tolerance policy" regarding Pittsburgh police and domestic violence.
Councilman Burgess has proposed an additional bill regarding the police, which would require the bureau to publish an annual, abridged version of its operating rules and procedures. Burgess says this will increase transparency and thus boost community confidence in the police force. Several other major cities do this, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, and Denver. The police bureau already publishes a yearly report of crime statistics documenting activity by zone and citywide.
Councilman C. Daniel Lavelle will introduce a bill Tuesday that would allow the city to apply for a $20 million TIGER grant for the "Lower Hill District Redevelopment Project." This would amount to a significant chunk of funding for the redevelopment of the former Civic Arena site, which is now occupied by parking lots. The Sports and Exhibition Authority, which has worked closely with the Penguins in moving the team's arena, would control the spending of the grant.
City residents are also submitting a petition to Council on Wednesday, which demands a public hearing on UPMC's "Luna Project" near its Shadyside hospital. The residents are upset that the project, which includes construction of a new "Center for Innovative Science," is disrupting parking on Baum Boulevard and Center Avenue in Shadyside.