Pittsburgh Police

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Mayor Bill Peduto said he is not rushing to fill two of the most high profile vacant positions in the city: public safety director and police chief.

In a Monday interview with Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer, Peduto said it is more important to find the right person for those positions than it is to get them filled right away.

An estimated 1,200 people attended the funeral for a Pittsburgh police dog stabbed in the line of duty.

The ceremony took place Friday morning at the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Pittsburgh.

Rocco, the 8-year-old German Shepherd, died Jan. 30, two days after being stabbed by a fugitive suspect during an arrest. That man, 21-year-old John Rush, remains jailed on charges of attacking the dog and other human officers at the scene, as well as the bench warrants for which he was arrested.

Legislation that would strengthen the penalties against killing or torturing a law enforcement animal might not have saved K-9 Officer Rocco’s life, but one lawmaker hopes it could save other K-9 officers such as Mt. Lebanon Police Department’s “Snieper.”

That is the goal of state Sen. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny) who said he saw how valuable the canines are when he visited Officer Snieper and his handler, Officer Ben Himan Monday.

Pittsburghers, many of them pet owners, took to social media with heavy hearts following the death of Pittsburgh police dog Rocco Thursday evening.

Authorities say 8-year-old Rocco was injured Tuesday night when police arrested a man on warrants for probation violations and failing to register as a sex offender.

Twenty-one-year-old John Lewis Rush was one of Allegheny County's most wanted fugitives. Police say he stabbed Rocco in the back and wounded two officers before being taken into custody.

Toprani Report Explores Police "Side Jobs"

Jan 9, 2014
Kaffeeeinstein / Flickr

From the resignation of Former Police Chief Nate Harper to the debate over officers living within city limits, the Pittsburgh city police department has been a topic of criticism over the past year.

The latest issue is a recent report criticizing city police working side jobs. Post-Gazette reporters Jonathan Silver and Liz Navratil have covered the story in which they describe the situation surrounding the Toprani Report.

This report, authored by former Washington County District Attorney Steve Toprani, investigates the state of the policies and procedures set up to regulate police officers taking “side jobs,” or, employment outside of the bureau.

Pretty soon there will be more police officers, firefighters, paramedics and building inspectors on the ground in Pittsburgh.

Mayor Bill Peduto announced this week he has authorized one class of police officers to begin training in March followed by another class in the fall, with the possibility of a third, one class of firefighters to begin as soon as possible and the hiring of more paramedics.

After more than nine months of discussion, Pittsburgh City Council Monday passed a minimum staffing policy for the Bureau of Police.

The policy authorizes the chief of police to initiate a new class in the training academy once the police force falls to 98 percent of the budgeted union sworn police personnel. The class itself would be equal to 5 percent of the budgeted number of officers.

The 2013 and 2014 budgets both allot for 892 officers. The Bureau of Police currently has 840 officers, far less than the 874 officers needed to initiate hiring.

Tensions ran high Tuesday as members of Pittsburgh City Council met to wrestle with the issue of community-police relations.

Up for discussion were three bills sponsored by Councilman Ricky Burgess, one of which would authorize the city to spend up to $150,000 on a police-community partnership program called Unleashing Respect Project, or URP.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said he is continuing to do his job and is helping the next mayor transition into office. 

City of Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb released Tuesday a performance audit of the secondary employment procedures utilized by the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.

The audit is just one part of a larger bureau-wide audit. Lamb said he wanted to release this portion early due the ongoing changes and public interest in secondary employment procedures.

The report takes a hard look at Cost Recovery Fees, or CRFs, which until recently, were not codified in city law.

The Special Events Office at the Pittsburgh Police Department will officially no longer schedule secondary employment of officers, nor will it handle payment for such employment.

Pittsburgh City Council passed a bill Tuesday that will outsource both duties to the North Carolina-based company Cover Your Assets.

The change comes after allegations that some officers received preferential treatment from the other officers who scheduled the moonlighting gigs.

Pittsburgh police say they're reviewing the timecard records of an officer who formerly worked as a bodyguard for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, and who testified against the mayor before a federal grand jury earlier this year.

At that time, the attorney for Fred Crawford said the investigation will eventually show that tax dollars were "wasted so the mayor could have a designated driver ... while he went out to bars."

That attorney, Robert Stewart, didn't return a call for comment Tuesday on the newest information about Crawford provided by acting Chief Regina McDonald.

Pittsburgh residents brought their concerns about police misconduct to City Council Tuesday during an open forum.

Concerned citizens brought up many issues, including a lack of diversity on the police force, racial profiling and overly aggressive policing in communities with high crime rates.

Rashad Byrdsong, president and CEO of the Homewood Community Empowerment Association, said law-abiding citizens of his community are stuck in a difficult situation.

The Allegheny County District Attorney called for an increase in the use of video cameras in law enforcement Monday.

Stephen Zappala said cameras add an extra level of objectivity to the police force.

Zappala said video cameras in police vehicles reduced legal complaints against police officers across the county by 90 percent.

“Every time that somebody sues a municipality on a one-on-one stop,” he said, “it costs us money as taxpayers. We refer to it legally as contingent liabilities … When you introduce objective evidence, that changes substantially.”

Why Does the Pittsburgh Police Residency Requirement Matter?

Jul 29, 2013
South / Pittsburgh for Trayvon

A group of Pittsburghers gathered in the Hill District two weeks ago to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman and to show their disdain for the American legal system. Commander Rashall Brackney was one of the officers who patrolled the demonstration.  The protestors spoke with Brackney throughout the evening, and it became evident that she had personal connections with many of the men and women sitting in the street.  She negotiated with the group on many issues and the protest continued peacefully. 

City Paper Editor Chris Potter wrote in his op-ed “Hitting Home,” that “her ties clearly helped defuse tensions on Centre Avenue that night.”

Brackney is a resident of the city of Pittsburgh and Potter points to this fact as an important element of the peaceful demonstration that night.  She had connections in the community in which she lived and therefore was able to deal with a potentially tumultuous situation in a calm manner.  But the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) in the city of Pittsburgh says that lifting the standing residency requirement for officers would make recruitment and retention easier, but many taxpayers feel differently.

A dozen speakers came out today to express their opinions about whether city police should be required to live inside the City of Pittsburgh - with a unanimous “yes.”

The public hearing was held on Councilman Ricky Burgess’s proposal to put the police residency issue on the November 5 ballot.

Those who testified all argued the same point - how could the police properly protect them when they don’t even know them.

Kaffeeeinstein / Flickr

The question of whether Pittsburgh police officers should be required to live in the city goes before arbitrators in September. 

But City Councilman Ricky Burgess believes that all voters in the city should have a say in the matter, not just the three members of the arbitration panel.

“I think that the arbitration, whatever the results are, will probably be appealed and come before a judge,” said Burgess, who is sponsoring legislation to put the issue on the November ballot.

While locally appointed arbitrators will make their final decision in September as to whether the requirement for Pittsburgh police to live in the city should be lifted, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl already has his answer: No.

Ravenstahl said he believes the city police should stay where they are.

“I think it’s important for them to be in the neighborhoods in which they patrol," Ravenstahl said. "The residents feel safer when they have a police officer living in their community. It seems to me that it’s working now, and there’s no need to change it.”

A day before a scheduled preliminary hearing, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala announced he's dropping charges against a Pittsburgh teacher who was arrested outside a meeting about police/community relations.

Dennis Henderson, a 38-year-old teacher at the Manchester Academy Charter School, was arrested June 26 in Homewood after leaving a Community Empowerment Association meeting.  

Pittsburgh City Council gave unanimous preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that would allow the Citizen Police Review Board (CPRB) to review police regulations before they're implemented, rather than afterward.

The measure, sponsored by Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess, will be put to a final vote on Tuesday.

Pittsburgh City Council This Week

May 13, 2013
90.5 WESA / 90.5 WESA


Last week, Pittsburgh City Council gave preliminary approval to Councilman Ricky Burgess's bills to reform the police bureau's domestic violence response policies.  One bill pays for training under the "Maryland Domestic Violence Lethality Assessment Program," and the second bill changes the city code to reflect the new policies. A final vote comes Tuesday.

When receiving a 911 call regarding domestic violence, responders must ask the callers a series of questions to determine the risk of imminent harm to the victim. Afterward, the officers must offer to call a women's shelter to help the victim.

Pittsburgh's bomb squad has been busy overnight responding to three reports of suspicious devices found along city streets that turned out to be loss-prevention devices, perhaps discarded as shoplifters drove away.

The first call came in just after 11 p.m. Thursday, and two more were reported Friday morning.

The plastic devices, which are equipped to beep and which hang from retail products by a small wire, were found wrapped in foil — which, at first, made them appear more suspicious.

Via Tsuji / Flickr

This Wednesday, Pittsburgh City Council votes on legislation written in reaction to the tragic death of Ka’Sandra Wade. Police responded to Ka'Sandra's 911 call on the night of December 31st, 2012. But they left her home when her boyfriend came to the window and told them that everything was alright. That night Ka'Sandra's boyfriend killed her and later killed himself. The legislation up for a vote this week would impact the way police respond to domestic violence calls.

Nigel Parry/Flickr

Although $7,000 may sound expensive for a German Shepherd puppy, it's not too bad of a price if you ask Pittsburgh Police Sergeant Chris Micknowski.

A bill making its way through Pittsburgh City Council would allow the Bureau of Police to build a software system for filing digital versions of daily activity reports.

Each officer currently writes his or her daily reports by hand, which costs time and makes research difficult, according to John Warren, executive assistant to acting Pittsburgh police chief Regina McDonald.

Pittsburgh police responded to a report that a box labeled "pressure cooker" with a Massachusetts return address was delivered to a city office building — only to find it really was a pressure cooker, ordered by an employee.

Police Lt. Shirley Sloan said the police response Wednesday was born out of an abundance of caution in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.

"It was really tense there for a while," Sloan said.

The FBI has said Monday's blasts were caused by homemade bombs crafted using pressure cookers.

Pittsburgh police say an officer is in surgery after being shot in the shoulder while pursuing a suspect, who was also shot by police.

A police spokeswoman, Officer Diane Richard, says the officer is expected to recover.

Investigators say the shooting happened around 1:30 a.m. Thursday in the city's Homewood section when two officers on patrol when saw a car speed by.

City Council Update with Noah Brode

Apr 8, 2013
90.5 WESA / 90.5 WESA

  Happy Monday! 90.5 WESA reporter, Noah Brode gives us our weekly update on Pittsburgh City Council.  More in the ongoing discussions of police fees for secondary detail work, funding for new police vehicles, and healthcare eligibility for dependents of city employees have all been major topics of discussion.  Noah also gives us reaction to County Council's decision last week to allow only lawyers to represent citizens in property reassessment appeals cases.

Pittsburgh City Council unanimously approved a $7.2 million bill to purchase new police vehicles and other additions to the city fleet, setting up the legislation for a final vote next week.

For the Bureau of Police, the list includes 31 new patrol cars, 12 new police motorcycles, nine unmarked cars and four K-9 vehicles.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has threatened to fire a police detective who allegedly placed a stun gun against the neck of a man who fell down before he was arrested for public drunkenness on Saturday.

Detective Frank Rende was working an off-duty security detail on the South Side during Saturday's St. Patrick's Day weekend festivities when the incident occurred.

Police spokeswoman Diane Richard said tests show the stun gun wasn't fired, which supports Rende's version of the incident as spelled out in a criminal complaint against 27-year-old Mark Keyser.