Police

Daniel / Flickr

A small-town Pennsylvania police chief is drawing fire for an internal memo telling his officers to stop making so many traffic stops because of too many resident complaints.

Midland police Chief Keith McCarthy still wants his officers to stop suspected drunken drivers and others suspected of more serious offenses, but asked them to "stop traffic stops significantly." He warned officers who don't will be scheduled for fewer hours.

Charles Krupa / AP

Pittsburgh-area law enforcement agencies are equipping K-9 handlers with naloxone as reports of dangerous opioid overdoses continue to sweep the Midwest.

Allegheny County Police Officer Steve Dawkins said dangerous situations are in his 4-year-old partner's job description. 

Chicago Police Department / AP

The last few years have exposed major problems in policing: use of force, high-tech surveillance and a systemic lack of transparency. Some police tactics have even been called undemocratic, because the public isn’t involved on the front end.

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. 

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. 

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.

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. 

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

When a child is abducted, millions of Pennsylvanians are asked to help through the Amber Alert system. State Representative Dom Costa, D-Allegheny, is hoping to use a similar system when a police officer is hurt.

Miles Karson for Mercer County DA / Facebook

A western Pennsylvania prosecutor plans to release details about the police shooting of a transgender suspect whose mother called police saying she was being threatened.

Mercer County District Attorney Miles Karson Jr. says his staff was briefed last week by state troopers who investigated the shooting of Sean Marie Hake by Sharon police on Jan. 6. The DA plans to announce their findings at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

The 23-year-old suspect was born female but identified as male and used the name Sean Ryan Hake at the time of the shooting.

Gateway School District / Facebook

School police officers sworn into the Gateway School District were equipped with firearms for the first time after the district’s petition for an armed force was approved Tuesday. The district plans to have an armed officer at each of the district’s seven schools.

A similar petition was denied in September by Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Timothy O’Reilly who said the school board did not think the decision through and officers did not have enough training. The school board is still appealing that verdict.

Prosecutors Issue Guidelines On Probes Of Police Shootings

Nov 29, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP

The group that represents Pennsylvania prosecutors issued guidelines Tuesday for investigating shootings by police officers, recommending that departments do not investigate their own and that the shooters' names should not be released unless they are charged.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala said the deaths of three people in a car who were struck on Thanksgiving by a fleeing suspect could have been avoided if the police departments involved went about it differently.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

 

Video footage from police dashboard and body cameras remains very difficult to obtain in Pennsylvania, where the state Supreme Court is currently considering what the rules for disclosure should be.

In a new survey of public records access in the state, dash cam videos were by far the least likely to be produced upon request.

Wolf Vetoes Bill On When To ID Cops Involved In Deadly Force

Nov 21, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

 

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is vetoing legislation that would have restricted the situations in which police officers are identified after firing their weapon or using force that results in death or serious injury.

Wolf rejected the legislation Monday, after it passed both the Republican-controlled House and Senate by veto-proof majorities last month.

Jared Wickerham / AP

 

The wife of a police officer slain the line of duty says he was "the best friend anyone could ever ask for," was adored by their four children and was always chasing "bigger dreams."

Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

When a drunk driver struck and killed Pennsylvania State Trooper Kenton Iwaniec, his parents began a personal crusade against drunk driving. They also set out to protect and assist law enforcement officers.

Now, eight years later, the foundation they started has purchased more than $600,000 worth of safety equipment. The money is mainly used to purchase portable breathalyzer tests, which police called PBTs.

Masked Motorcycle Marauders Terrorize People In York

Aug 26, 2016
Tammy J. Mankey / WITF

Groups of masked teens have been terrorizing York over the summer months, recklessly riding dirt bikes and ATVs through traffic, harassing other motorists and in one case, disrupting a charity softball tournament, according to police and several witnesses and victims.

"These individuals are a nuisance, they're causing safety hazards and destroying the quality of life for the individuals who live in the city's neighborhoods," York City Police Chief Wes Kahley said Thursday. He added that police suspect most of the bikes are stolen, and none of them are street legal.

The Baltimore Police Department has disproportionately targeted African-Americans for stops and arrests, a Justice Department investigation has found. After the department took a "zero tolerance" approach to policing in the early 2000s, the report finds, the police department began engaging in a pattern and practice of discriminatory policing.

San Diego's police chief says an officer was shot and killed and another was injured after they made a traffic stop late Thursday. A suspect is in custody.

Both officers were assigned to an elite anti-gang unit, police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said at a late-night news conference. She described the incident in San Diego's Southcrest neighborhood, in the southern part of the beach-side city:

Days after Charles Kinsey was shot by North Miami police as the behavioral health care worker tried to help a patient, we now know more about the officer who fired the shot — and according to the head of the local police union, the officer was trying to shoot Kinsey's patient, a man with autism, not Kinsey.

"Fearing for Mr. Kinsey's life, the officer discharged his firearm, trying to save Mr. Kinsey's life," says John Rivera, president of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association. "And he missed, and accidentally struck Mr. Kinsey."

On Sunday, in the hours after the attack on officers in Baton Rouge, La., police reformers were quick to condemn the killings — and there were touching efforts to bridge the divide between the black community and police, such as a cookout in Wichita, Kan. Planned as a protest, it was repurposed as a community barbecue with local police.

President Obama and former President George W. Bush spoke at an interfaith memorial service this afternoon for the five police officers murdered in Dallas last week.

Bush, a resident of Dallas, noted that he interacts with law enforcement every day.

"We're proud of the men we mourn," he said.

Center for Popular Democracy / Facebook

Hundreds of activists, community organizers and progressive elected officials from around the country are meeting in Pittsburgh this weekend. 

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Eight former police officers will be patrolling school hallways instead of streets this fall.

By a 7-2 vote Tuesday, the Gateway School District Board of Education approved the placement of at least one armed officer in each of the district’s elementary, middle and high schools.

Board president Chad Stubenbort said the district will hire retired officers to work part-time as part of its $300,000 security budget. Recent school attacks, especially the 2014 mass stabbing in nearby Franklin Regional High School, proved violence can happen anywhere, he said.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Since 1961, the Pennsylvania State Police have been able to use radar to hand out speeding tickets, but municipal police in the state have been denied the same authority. 

“We trust them with a gun, we trust them with a Taser, we should be able to trust them with a radar gun,” Whitehall Borough Mayor Jim Nowalk said.

Nowalk was among a small, but vocal group that gathered Tuesday in Harrisburg to call on lawmakers to lift the ban. 

Guy Wathen / Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Reporters rushed to the scene of the shooting in Wilkinsburg in the early hours Thursday to document the shooting deaths and injuries of nine people. Among them, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review multimedia journalist Guy Wathen worked with fellow still photographers to give the paper's online readers a sense of the borough gripped by tragedy.

Wathen spoke with 90.5 WESA’s Larkin Page-Jacobs about his experience.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Updated 3:37 p.m.  

When Carl Morris orders pizza, delivery drivers ask which side of Ardmore Boulevard he lives on. He tells them it's the east side of Franklin Avenue -- the "good half of Wilkinsburg."

Morris and family huddled in their home late Wednesday night when at least two shooters opened fire on a backyard party across the street at 1304 Franklin Ave. The pair killed six people and injured three in the borough just east of Pittsburgh.

Emma Lee / WHYY

 

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay can't be with all of his officers, all the time. While they're driving their beat, responding to calls and policing the city, they're on their own. Negative reports, either by the officers or about the officers, are often he-said, she-said cases.

But that could be changing. Pittsburgh is one of five cities in Pennsylvania that received federal Department of Justice funding to outfit their officers with body cameras. The small cameras, worn on the officer's uniform, record interactions between police officers and the community.

Josh James / WUKY

 

A few weeks ago, we published a story about  Pennsylvania cities trying to recruit bilingual police officers. 

Although the Latino population is growing quickly in many cities, making up 40 to 60 percent of the population in some cases, police departments trying to hire Spanish-speaking officers are facing challenges. 

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