Government & Politics
7:17 pm
Tue January 15, 2013

Pittsburgh Police Domestic Violence Training May Be Overhauled

Little more than two weeks after an East End woman was apparently shot to death by her abusive ex-boyfriend despite being visited by police, the Pittsburgh City Councilman representing her neighborhood introduced legislation Tuesday to change city police officers' training for domestic violence incidents.

Councilman Ricky Burgess, also a pastor, said he's been concerned with domestic violence in Pittsburgh, but the New Year's Day discovery of Ka'Sandra Wade's body in her Larimer apartment "focused [his] attention" on the issue.

Two officers visited Wade's home in response to her New Year's Eve 911 call, but they left after her ex-boyfriend, Anthony Brown, told them through the door there was no problem. Police think Brown then shot Wade, and killed himself the next day during a police confrontation. The District Attorney's office is investigating the police response, and an internal inquiry has begun.

Burgess said one of his bills starts the process of adding a new domestic violence policy to the city code, in addition to the police code.

"There is fifteen or sixteen pages in the city code that discusses what happens if a police officer is personally involved in domestic violence," said Burgess, "but there is no conversation about the appropriate behavior of a police officer when they respond to the scene of domestic violence."

A second piece of legislation requires police officers to go through training for a "Domestic Violence Lethality Assessment" program.

"They can measure the likelihood that this person is at high risk for serious injury or death," said Burgess. "The police officer then offers, while he is in the same room with the victim, to call the hotline."

Burgess said the domestic violence hotline operator can then speak with the victim and work out a solution.

The councilman said he'd like to train 911 operators in new domestic violence protocols too, but he said they're under the purview of Allegheny County, so an agreement would have to be arranged with the county government.