Identity & Justice

The identity and justice desk explores how the makeup of the Pittsburgh community is changing, and digs into issues of diversity and equity.

Are High-Speed Police Chases Worth It?

Apr 25, 2017
Houston Chronicle/Nick de la Torre / via AP

High-speed chases down busy highways have become a news staple, as police attempt to arrest alleged criminals. But the people most often hurt by these scenes are the innocent civilians. Thousand have been injured or killed over the past few decades.

On this week’s episode of 90.5 WESA’s Criminal Injustice podcast, law professor and host David Harris talked to Dr. Geoff Alpert of the University of Carolina about whether these high-speed chases are really worth the cost.

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

Keith Srakocic / AP

Americans who live in high-crime neighborhoods often get portrayed as anti-police, but an Urban Institute study released in February shows something different: strong respect for the law and a willingness to help with public safety.

Department Of Aging Gets Training To Better Provide For LGBT Seniors

Apr 14, 2017
Annette John-Hall / WHYY

Senior citizen Harry Adamson is 67 and lives in the part of center city Philadelphia known as the “gayborhood." He came out at age 25 when “anything gay was either suspect or terrifying.”

Adamson has also lived with HIV for 32 years. So he thinks the recent training that the Pennsylvania Department of Aging and other state agencies received to better respond to the needs of LGBT adults, including those living with HIV/AIDS, is a good idea.

“But you have to discern how you can engage people so they can tell you what they need,” Adamson said.

United Artists / Library of Congress

If you’re a registered voter or have a driver’s license, odds are, you’re eligible for jury duty. But just because you’re called, doesn’t mean you’ll serve.

Research from the Jury Sunshine Project in North Carolina shows that some people get dismissed from the jury pool a lot more often than others.

On this week’s episode of 90.5 WESA’s Criminal Injustice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor and show host David Harris talked to Wake Forest School of Law professor Ron Wright, who’s finding those exclusions make a big difference in the outcome of some cases.

ICE Corrects Record For Some Pennsylvania Jurisdictions

Apr 10, 2017
Charles Reed/US Immigration and Customs Enforcement / AP

Most Pennsylvania counties won't hold jail inmates for Immigration and Customs Enforcement without a warrant.

They basically can't due to the liability potential established by a 2014 federal court decision.

Reasons aside, any law enforcement agency that declines a detainer request is now being called out in weekly reports as per President Donald Trump's executive order.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

The commonwealth is embarking on a long-term plan to reduce the numbers of mentally ill inmates in county prisons.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

In March 2015, then-Police Chief Cameron McLay committed to working with the U.S. Department of Justice as part of a six-city pilot project to help heal cities’ fractured relationships with communities of color.

Part of that agreement is set to include racial reconciliation training, which asks police and citizens to speak plainly about their issues.

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

There are all sorts of eureka moments that might make someone decide to remake their lives, from a bad breakup to a health scare to job loss.

Taylor Davidson

Pittsburghers who want to support refugees in the community will soon be able to do so one-on-one.

A new organization called Hello Neighbor is now taking applications for individuals and families who want to be matched as friends and mentors to incoming refugees.

Paul Sakuma / AP

Efforts to oversee police several decades ago resulted in hundreds of complaint review boards that investigate when an officer or civilian come forward about a specific case. But a new type of oversight is gaining traction – one in which appointed civilians look at whole departments and how they do their jobs day-to-day. 

Fact Check: ICE Report Inconsistent With Local Jurisdictions In PA

Mar 27, 2017
Charles Reed/U.S. Immigratino and Customs Enforcement / AP

After President Donald Trump’s executive order, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were tasked with publishing reports on a regular basis showing how local law enforcement agencies respond to detainer requests, and what happens thereafter.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh police have charged 11 people after protesters threw rocks, broke windows and set off "large-scale" fireworks during a protest outside the Allegheny County Jail.

Police named the defendants Tuesday afternoon, but The Associated Press was not identifying them because it wasn't immediately clear what charges and actions were being attributed to which defendants.

Police say about 25 people from the Allegheny County Health Justice Project gathered about 8 p.m. Monday.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

When a group of people is given great power to watch over the rest of us, how do we make sure they use that power correctly?

Pittsburgh’s Citizen Police Review Board was created in 1997 to do just that. 

Mexican Consulate Offers Legal Assistance For Concerned Immigrants

Mar 15, 2017
Gregory Bull / AP

The Consulate of Mexico in Philadelphia has traditionally been the place to go for Mexican immigrants to receive assistance with things like securing passports, birth certificates, visas, and how to send money to loved ones in Mexico.

Charles Krupa / AP

President Donald Trump has called for a return to “law and order” policing and shown support for stop and frisk and heavy use of force. Many modern police leaders aren’t buying in.

This week on 90.5 WESA’s Criminal Injustice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor and host David Harris looks at one non-member, nonpartisan organization that conducts field studies with real cops to find more nuanced data-driven ways to reduce crime.

Paolo Braluca / Flickr

In the wake of a 39 percent jump in reports to Pennsylvania’s child abuse hotline in 2015,  the Auditor General’s office is examining the safety of at-risk children by assessing the stresses on caseworkers at children and youth agencies.

“Unfortunately, our audits have increasingly found high staff turnover and heavy caseloads affecting the care that children and youth service caseworkers can provide across the commonwealth,” Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said.

The review will cover 13 counties including Allegheny, Fayette and Cambria.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Franklin Avenue in Wilkinsburg is a mostly uneventful place these days.

“It’s been quiet,” said Jackie Pendleton, who’s lived in the borough northeast of Pittsburgh for 34 years. “It’s been quiet since that incident took place down the street.”

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh women rallied downtown Wednesday in solidarity against what some called decades of harmful and misogynistic policies.  

More than 300 people gathered outside the City-County Building -- most wearing red, the demonstration's nationally designated color -- to show the power of women and female-identified workers in society.

With March In Rearview, Women Nationwide To Walk Out For ‘A Day Without A Woman’

Mar 7, 2017
Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Organizers of the January Women's March are calling for women to take the day off and encouraging them not to spend money Wednesday to show their economic strength and impact on American society.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Many American cities are struggling with police-community relations, and racial divisions are often the heart of the problem.

On this week's episode of 90.5 WESA's Criminal Injustice, Pitt law professor David Harris talks to David Kennedy of the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Vanessa McCarthy-Johnson was scrambling to organize her community at this time last year. The Wilkinsburg Borough councilwoman said she felt there was a need to come together after five people, including a pregnant woman, were murdered at a backyard barbecue in the neighborhood.

Elaine Thomson / AP

A federal judge on Monday ruled that three transgender students at a Pennsylvania high school, including the sister of a singer who performed at President Donald Trump's inauguration, can use bathrooms that correspond to their stated gender identities while their lawsuit challenging the school district's policy continues.

Jacqueline Larma / AP

Jewish centers in York and Harrisburg were among those affected by a wave of bomb threats in at least 11 states Monday. This came the day after more than 100 headstones were knocked over at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety / AP

Four men have now been arrested in the robbery and fatal beating of a Somali immigrant cab driver.

Christen Glenn, 18, of Greensburg, and Daniel Russell, 19, of Youngstown, Ohio, were arrested Sunday in Youngstown, Pittsburgh police said.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Sharon Serbin describes herself as a Jane-of-all-trades: an artist, a personal trainer, and most recently, a life skills counselor at the Center for Hearing and Deaf Services. Serbin lost her hearing in her teens, and has spent many years working in the hearing and deaf communities. 90.5 WESA’s Margaret J. Krauss interviewed Serbin as part of an ongoing series in which we speak with leading experts and people of interest in the Pittsburgh community. Their conversation has been edited for length.

 

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

A member of the Somali Bantu community in Pittsburgh is in critical condition after being severely beaten early Tuesday morning. 

The victim is a cab driver who was responding to a call in Beltzhoover.

Many members of the Muslim and refugee community said they're concerned it may have been a hate crime. Pittsburgh Police are investigating, but said there is no evidence of bigotry.

Pittsburgh Police Assistant Chief Lavonnie Bickerstaff said it’s possible the Somali man was beaten as the result of a robbery.

Wystan / Flickr

From Obama-era task forces to widespread protests, the idea of community policing has become part of our national conversation. 

On this week's episode of the Criminal Injustice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor and host David Harris talked to Jerry Clayton, the elected sheriff of Washtenaw County, Mich. Now in his third term, Clayton started overhauling the department of 400 officers eight years ago with service and sustainability in mind.

John Bazemore / AP

Pennsylvania has the fifth most hate groups in the US—a title it’s now claimed for the second year running, according to a Southern Poverty Law Center study.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Declining enrollment is causing the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh to restructure some of its elementary schools.

Last weekend, Diocese officials announced that 10 elementary schools in the North Hills would be put under a single administration. The changes will go into effect next fall.

Bishop David Zubik said now, all 32 regional parishes will support those schools.

Google Maps

Students from a Bucks County school plan to show community solidarity after a Ku Klux Klan flier was found near a home.

WCAU-TV reports that students at Central Bucks High School West will join the advocacy group Showing Up for Racial Justice to hold a rally Monday. SURJ is a national grassroots organization that focuses on mobilizing white allies for civil rights causes.

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