Pittsburgh Police

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Before she brought the students into the main area of Willy Tee’s Barbershop in Homewood to listen to a story, Cynthia Battle asked parents and police officers what their favorite childhood book was.

Battle, a community outreach specialist for the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children (PAEYC), said she loved "The Pancake Man."

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh officials vowed to remedy a long-standing lack of diversity on its police force with the resolution of a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination in hiring practices.

In a tentative agreement announced Thursday, the city agreed to pay $985,000 plus court costs to eligible black police academy applicants who were not issued job offers between 2008 and 2014.

Flickr user kaffeeeinstein

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay has said the city’s officers must “be willing to change” in order to improve morale, increase community trust and be more responsive to meet the needs of citizens.

As part of that effort, officers will attend a behavioral science-based leadership training program from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Flickr user Robert Bratton

Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar is advocating that police officers in Zone 5, which includes the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, be trained in animal behavior so they can properly respond to incidents involving dangerous animals.

The proposed agreement would also include training for zoo employees on the use of live firearms and tranquilizer guns.

Essential Pittsburgh: An Hour with Mayor Bill Peduto

Mar 18, 2015
BillPeduto.com

Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto makes his monthly appearance on the program. He discusses Pittsburgh's participation in a new Justice Department program to improve the relationship between police officers and city residents and his meeting with President Obama during his visit to Washington for the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference. The mayor also addresses the topics of body cameras for the Pittsburgh Police force, pothole season and the city's Summer Internship Program.

"Let's be real fair and open about this: incidents are going to occur. Police are dealing with violent people, they're dealing with dysfunction, and they're dealing with situations that don't follow rules. And in those cases there are always going to be times when force is necessary. But how it is used and making sure that it doesn't exceed the escalation is something that we work now to train our officers on." - Mayor Bill Peduto

The mayor speaks at length about the changes to community policing that his administration is instituting.

"When Chief McLay came in, he asked his commanders, 'Send me a list of people that you call when an incident occurs.' And there was no list. So over the course of the first month we started to put together a list of community leaders.'

He answers caller questions about instituting a version of a stop and frisk program (24:05), the city's plans for helping to provide jobs for children in inner city neighborhoods (33:50), plans to revitalize Pittsburgh neighborhoods like Arlington (43:20), and food truck legislation (46:50).

On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Pittsburgh is one of six cities designated as a pilot site for a national initiative to strengthen and improve the relationship between law enforcement and the community.

It's called the National Initiative for Building Community, and it’s a partnership between the Department of Justice and legal experts from institutions such as the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Yale Law School.

AP Photo/Pittsburgh Police Department via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A man whose fatal stabbing of a K-9 prompted Pennsylvania lawmakers to stiffen the penalty for harming police animals has been sentenced to up to 44 years in prison.

A judge on Tuesday decided John Lewis Rush should serve a minimum of 17 years, nine months in prison and said he must also serve eight years of probation after being released.

The 22-year-old Stowe Township resident was convicted in December of torturing a police animal, aggravated assault on the dog's handler and three other officers, and other offenses.

The Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing in Pittsburgh Wednesday, where city and county officials called for amendments to state laws that limit the use of body-worn cameras by police officers.

According to Cole McDonough, chief of the Mt. Lebanon Police Dept., the state Wiretap Act requires officers to turn-off or remove their body cameras before entering a private residence without a warrant. McDonough said this creates safety and liability issues.

A slew of city officials on Tuesday announced a new initiative that they hope will increase public safety and improve community-police relations.

Safer Together, the brainchild of Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess, has five similar goals to build relationships of respect, cooperation and trust within and between the Department of Public Safety and the community. It also aims improve education, oversight, monitoring, diversity, accountability and hiring practices for the department.

It took less than one minute for officers from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police to arrive on the scene after shots reportedly were fired off the porch of 7502 Hamilton Ave. in Homewood Saturday night.

“(ShotSpotter) was so accurate and so quick that the officers were able to engage the suspects and see them as they were firing the weapons and observe the muzzle flash that was a result of them firing the weapons,” said Major Crimes Cmdr. RaShall Brackney.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Citywide, there were 71 homicides in Pittsburgh in 2014, well above the 10-year average of 55. The last time the number was in the 70s was 2008, when there were 74 homicides.

“This is a public health emergency,” said Chief of Pittsburgh Police Cameron McLay. “It’s having a disparate impact on our underprivileged and our communities of color.”

Twenty-six of the 2014 homicide cases have been cleared by arrest. There are 28 active investigations, eight cases with strong suspects and six pending grand jury or district attorney review.

Pittsburgh's new police chief is being praised by the mayor but criticized by a police union president for being photographed on New Year's Eve holding a sign that says: "I resolve to challenge racism @ work."

The sign also has a Twitter hash tag that says "# end white silence." Chief Cameron McLay was photographed holding up the sign that someone had brought to the city's annual First Night celebration.

Mayor Bill Peduto said he saw the picture on social media and liked it so much he re-posted it on his own Facebook page.

A Former Officer's Perspective on Appropriate Use of Force

Dec 18, 2014
macwagen / flickr

For as long as there has been law enforcement, there have been arguments over how much force police reserve the right to use.

These arguments have come to dominate the national conversation in the wake of the police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York. This conversation has spread to Pittsburgh, in the form of regular protest demonstrations focused on local issues.

Sheldon Williams is a former Pittsburgh Police Officer and a member of the Citizen Police Review Board who answered some of the  lingering questions about the use of deadly force by police.

Williams said that he was somewhat skeptical about Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson’s testimony.

Are Local Prosecutors to Blame for Failure to Prosecute Police?

Dec 17, 2014
David Harris

The public outcry over the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men, at the hands of white police officers continues to spark protests around the country. 

One of the many legal aspects being called into question in these instances is the role of local prosecutors taking the cases to grand juries. Pitt Law Professor David Harris examines the part that local prosecutors have played in these cases.

Harris says that local prosecutors often have ties to police departments, thus producing a possible conflict of interest. Although sometimes local prosecutors do indeed prosecute police, Harris acknowledges that concerns about impartiality are justifiable.

The city of Pittsburgh has reached a settlement with Dennis Henderson, a teacher who was arrested in June 2013 outside of a community meeting on police/community relations.

Henderson and the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit against the arresting police officer, Jonathan Gromek. The settlement was reached after mediation.

Gun Shot Survivors Find Their Lives Forever Changed

Nov 24, 2014
Ken / Flickr

More than one-hundred thousand people in America are shot each year. Seventy-five thousand survive.

Many of them still carry the bullet. How has it impacted their lives? We pose that question to reporter Chris Togneri who spent six months interviewing survivors, including Jeff Smith, a Pittsburgh Police detective who was shot in the line of duty.  They join guest host, Tribune Review reporter Andy Conte, in Studio A.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

It’s been about 2 months since Mayor Bill Peduto has sat down in studio A for his monthly live interview.

We catch up with him and his take on the recent purchase of the August Wilson Center, what the election of Tom Wolf for governor means for Pittsburgh, his recent budget address and we’ll follow up on last month’s live community and police forum.

Oh, and what's up with this "Jagoff" in the dictionary thing???

As the Pittsburgh Police continue to work to mend relationships with the community, some officers are allegedly throwing the mayor under the bus. Director of Public Safety Stephen Bucar has sent an e-mail to the new police chief, asking that officers stop blaming Mayor Bill Peduto for tickets they issue.

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh’s acting police chief and Mayor Bill Peduto were two panelists in a discussion on police/community relations as part of the Mayor’s Night on Air at the Community Broadcast Center Wednesday evening.

Tensions have been high between police and the black community in Pittsburgh due to issues that have been building up for decades. Now, Peduto said work is underway to change that.

“We have done more than just hiring a police chief; we have created a culture change within Pittsburgh,” Peduto said.

Peduto cited his hiring of Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar and bringing in a new chief from outside the ranks of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. He also said through years of politics in the department, control over the organization and morale has taken a hit. Acting Police Chief Cameron McLay said he has been welcomed by rank-and-file officers, but he knows change won’t occur overnight.

“Culture is a slow thing to change. It takes years and years and years to change culture,” McLay said. “But effective leaders working together can change climate a lot faster, so that’s what we are trying to do here.”

To start to tackle the issue, Peduto said three critical areas within policing need to be reformed. The first is how officers are recruited.

Courtesy image

Eight months after taking office, Mayor Bill Peduto has announced the hiring of Cameron McLay as the next chief of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.

It's a job, Peduto said, that comes with a lot of ground to cover.

“He most certainly must restore the trust with the community," Peduto said. “He must rebuild the morale with the rank and file and he must make the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police a national model of professionalism.”

A class-action lawsuit against the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police meant to end alleged discriminatory hiring practices against African Americans is nearing the point of resolution, either through negotiations or trial, says Witold Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.

Matt Niemi / Flickr

Pittsburgh Police negotiations are underway, and Mayor Bill Peduto said he’s willing to bargain as long as he sees reform.

In March, a labor arbitrator ruled that Pittsburgh Police are not required to live within the city. Instead, they are permitted to live within a 25 mile radius of the City County Building. But soon after, Peduto appealed the decision.

Peduto said Wednesday he would be willing to bargain if he could see three improvements to the police system in Pittsburgh.

He said he wants to reform how officers are recruited and wants a police force that reflects the city, with more diversity. He also wants to see a change in how police are promoted, saying that it should be based on merit instead of a test.

National Night Out Set for Tuesday

Aug 4, 2014
Kaye Burnet / WESA

For 30 years the City of Pittsburgh has joined other communities across the country in celebrating National Night Out Against Crime, and this year the city is expanding its activities to get residents involved in their neighborhoods to make them safer and help deter crime.

“National Night Out started as the nation’s night out against crime, an opportunity for neighbors to get together, to know each other, to help each other out,” says Liz Style, coordinator for the Department of Public Safety's "Safer Together" outreach program.

Mayor Bill Peduto on Monday attended the first of two meetings with rank-and-file police officers to find out what they’re looking for in a police chief.

Peduto said he was pleasantly surprised that the comments he heard from officers “were very much in line” with what he’s heard from the public and with his own ideas about what kind of police chief Pittsburgh needs.

The mayor said one of the officers’ primary concerns is fairness.

The overall crime rate in Pittsburgh for 2013 was reduced by 6.6 percent over 2012, according to the city’s Department of Public Safety. The drop is credited, primarily, to a decrease in property crimes.

Violent crime is down by 2.6 percent, but when broken down into categories, all violent crime categories, except for robbery, increased. Robbery dropped 15.8 percent over 2012.

The number of rapes is up, but a news release from the Department of Public Safety attributed the rise to the inclusion of male victims in the Uniform Crime Reporting definition of rape.  

Prosecutors must approve felony arrest warrants issued by Pittsburgh police because of concerns expressed by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala over the bureau’s eyewitness identification procedures.

In a letter to city officials, Zappala wrote that Pittsburgh police must adopt eyewitness identification procedures outlined by the Allegheny County Chiefs of Police Association by August 16. If not, eyewitnesses might be used to establish a suspect, but the information provided could not be used to charge an individual.

Since before taking office, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has been promising that when it came time to hire a new police chief, the public would have ample opportunity to influence the process.  Today, he and Acting Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar laid out plans for six public meetings and a website dedicated to taking additional input. 

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh’s new acting public safety director started work this week with former Public Safety Director Michael Huss staying on for the transition. Stephan Bucar was most recently a supervisory special agent section chief in the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, he will now head the city’s Department of Public Safety.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala says a Pittsburgh police officer who shot and killed a man in Wilkinsburg in April was justified in opening fire.

Officials say Adrian Williams, 29, who was killed in the shooting, had led police on an early-morning high-speed chase that started in Homewood and ended in Wilkinsburg, when he crashed the car he was driving and then ran through yards with a handgun.

Zappala said at least 12 other officers were at the scene and had been involved in the chase. Officer Christopher Kertis shot Williams six times.

HeroesBehindtheBadge.com

Saturday night Drusky Entertainment is presenting the Pittsburgh premiere of Heroes Behind the Badge, a documentary that tells the stories of two officers who paid the ultimate price, as well as the stories of three severely injured officers.

One of those officers is patrolman James Kuzak, who was shot five times after responding to a home invasion call in the city of Clairton.

Brian Drusky of Drusky Entertainment has timed the showing such that it arrives three years after Officer Kuzak’s incident and five after the death of three Pittsburgh police officers. 

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