Pittsburgh Police

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.


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. 

Context Controls Decision in Jordan Miles Trial

Apr 1, 2014
Lucy Skywalker / Wikipedia Commons

Four years after an altercation between three Pittsburgh police officers and CAPA High School student Jordan Miles, eight jurors reached a split verdict  Monday.

The officers were found guilty on the charge of false arrest of Miles, but not guilty in the charge of excessive force.

Miles was awarded monetarily for his injuries, but many are still concerned about the result of the trial.

University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris explained one of the most confusing elements the verdict -- if Miles was falsely arrested, shouldn’t any force be considered excessive? 

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

After weeks of testimony, the civil court trial pitting Homewood resident, Jordan Miles against three Pittsburgh police officers concluded Monday with a wrongful arrest conviction.

90.5 WESA reporter Deanna Garcia describes the verdict as a mixed decision

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Three Pittsburgh police officers were the target of a civil lawsuit brought by Jordan Miles charging that they falsely arrested the CAPA High School student and used excessive force during the incident.
The jury found for Miles on the charge of false arrest and for the officers on excessive force allegations. They awarded Miles compensatory damages of $101,016.75 and punitive damages of $6,000 from each of the three officers. Miles called the verdict a victory for him.

Police officers and at-risk youth, some of whom have been in trouble with the law, met in Homestead Friday to discuss ways of improving police and community relations. A panel of both law enforcement officers and youth spoke and engaged with the crowd.

“We talk about how we can impact those arrests by changing police way of thinking, changing youth way of thinking when they’re out on the street so that they know when they interact it doesn’t have to be negative,” said Kimberly Booth, assistant chief probation officer with Allegheny County Juvenile Court.  

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is appealing an arbitration panel's decision that its police officers can live outside the city.

The appeal to Allegheny County Court puts on hold last week's ruling that would let officers live within 25 miles of the City-County Building. The ruling means officers could live throughout the county and in parts of six neighboring counties.

Pittsburgh police say there were no major criminal incidents or problems during the city's St. Patrick's Day parade on Saturday, or at celebrations afterward, though 71 people were arrested or cited, mostly for alcohol-related infractions.

Public Safety Director Michael Huss says about 23,000 people lined the parade route, many of whom then celebrated in the city — and were joined by other revelers — most at Market Square or the South Side, a redeveloped neighborhood with a large concentration of bars.

A labor arbitrator has ruled Pittsburgh police don't have to live in the city, instead requiring only that they live within a 25-mile radius of the City-County Building downtown.

Thursday's ruling sets aside a November referendum in which voters overwhelmingly favored requiring officers to live in the city.

City Council proposed the referendum after a state law was changed in 2012, overturning the residency requirement. The law didn't require cities to negate residency requirements, but gave them the flexibility to do so.

The three Pittsburgh police officers accused of violating Jordan Miles’ civil rights will be back in an federal courtroom Monday, and the lawyer representing Miles says the jury could hear some new evidence.

A jury in August of 2012 found that the actions of officers Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte and David Sisak did not rise to the level of malicious prosecution as had been alleged in the civil trial, however that same jury remained deadlocked on the allegation that the men falsely arrested Miles and used excessive force while doing so.

File Photo / 90.5 WESA

Former Pittsburgh police chief Nathan Harper has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for conspiring to create an unauthorized slush fund, diverting public money and failing to pay income taxes.

U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon also ordered 61-year-old Harper on Tuesday to repay $31,986 from the fund that he spent on himself.

An emotional Nate Harper addressed the court before hearing his sentence.

“I’m a broken man,” he said, adding that he’ll carry with him to his grave the embarrassment he said he caused his family and friends.