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.

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.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The number of Pittsburgh police officers is on track to reach its highest number in 15 years, city officials said just one day after installing new Chief Scott Schubert.

On Friday, a class of seven new Pittsburgh police officers were sworn in – all experienced and coming from other regional departments.

Mayor Bill Peduto said the city has made intentional efforts to attract outside talent.

'Human Library' Allows Penn State Community To Check Out Diverse Life Experiences

Feb 17, 2017
Eleanor Klibanoff / WPSU

Brian Davis is well-known around campus, and not just because the Penn State junior is always wearing a suit. He's triple majoring and double minoring, is actively involved in organizations across campus and has the ear of the University's president.

But that's not where his story begins.

"So my story is about me growing up in West Philadelphia, and for me joining a gang, and to how that was for me every single day," said Davis. "Whether that was getting shot at, fearing for my life, or fighting just because that was the mental capacity I had at the time."

Alex Brandon / AP

Pennsylvania wasn’t among the states where large-scale immigration enforcement took place last week, but communities in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have reported raids.  

On Wednesday morning, the City of Philadelphia tweeted on its official account, “City is working to gather info on how many people have been impacted by increased ICE enforcements,” and gave the number for a hotline created by New Sanctuary Movement, an interfaith immigrant justice organization.

A Song Within The Storm: How Motherhood And Addiction Collide

Feb 16, 2017
Maranie Staab / PublicSource

Sarah Womack stands in the center of her daughter’s pink room and explains why she had to take the frame off the bed and leave the mattress on the floor. After the Office of Children, Youth and Families inspected her home, the agency claimed that a bed with a frame would make a room seem too much like a bedroom and a bedroom would make things “too confusing” for Sarah’s daughter, Lola. The mattress on the floor makes Lola’s room a playroom instead.

Lola lives with her great aunt and uncle. That is her home. Not with Sarah. Not yet.

Cliff Owen / AP

Female executives at nonprofits in southwestern Pennsylvania still don’t earn as much as their male peers, but the gap is getting smaller.

A Qualitative Study of Youth and the Juvenile Justice System: A 100 Percent Pittsburgh Pilot Project / Pittsburgh Foundation

Youth need more of a say in shaping the juvenile justice system they're a part of, according to a report released Monday by the Pittsburgh Foundation.

LM Otero / AP

In recent years, DNA tests have proved something surprising: people sometimes confess to terrible crimes that they definitely did not commit. One reason seems to be traditional American methods of police interrogation. 

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