Juliette Rihl reports on criminal justice, public safety and mental health for PublicSource. Her 2020 series on how court debt impacts low-income Allegheny County residents prompted the county to join a national reform initiative. She has also written about facial recognition use by local law enforcement, which led to legislation to regulate the technology. Before joining PublicSource, Juliette taught English in Taichung, Taiwan as a Fulbright scholar. She is also a graduate of the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs and the University of Pittsburgh. She enjoys books, rock climbing and hanging with her cat, Sokka. Pronouns: she/her.
Pittsburgh police officers accessed the facial recognition technology Clearview AI over the course of a year, including during Black Lives Matter protests last summer. The use of the technology violated police policy and, in some later cases, broke city law.
PublicSource will be updating this story throughout Election Day and monitoring as results come in. Wednesday results updates:
On Pittsburgh City Council —
Two City Councilors facing challengers in their reelection bids, Theresa Kail-Smith and Anthony Coghill, won by comfortable margins. Kail-Smith, the council president who has represented District 2 since 2009, defeated Jacob Williamson with 69% of the vote with 38 of 41 precincts reporting Wednesday morning. Coghill won a second four-year term representing District 4, capturing 62% of the vote to defeat Bethani Cameron with all precincts reporting. On state ballot questions —
Pennsylvania voters approved two proposed constitutional amendments that will shift power from the governor to the Legislature when it comes to declaring, extending and ending states of emergency.
State Rep. Ed Gainey defeated Mayor Bill Peduto in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, clearing a path to become Pittsburgh’s first Black mayor and signaling a shift in the city’s politics.
There were no candidates for the office on the Republican ballot, though an independent could oppose Gainey in November’s general election. Gainey is the first challenger to unseat an incumbent mayor since 1933. “One person can’t change a city. A city is changed with all of us," Gainey said after his victory. "A city is changed when we all come together to improve the quality of life for everybody.
Tuesday marks the end of Pittsburgh’s contentious mayoral race in which incumbent Bill Peduto and leading challenger state Rep. Ed Gainey raised more than $1.2 million combined in campaign funds since Jan. 1. The financial records of their campaigns show markedly different strategies and donor bases. While Peduto holds a major financial advantage, raising far more money and pulling in tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-state contributions, Gainey leads in small donations and has more evenly dispersed support across the city. PublicSource analyzed each candidate’s donations.
An Allegheny County analysis of overdose deaths between 2015 and 2016 showed that almost one in every five people who died of an overdose had been released from jail at some point in the previous year. About half of that group died within 90 days of being released and a quarter died within 30 days of leaving the jail. Advocates say the county should provide medication-assisted drug treatment.
The Pittsburgh police bureau is investigating contact between police staff and Clearview AI following inquiries by PublicSource about the bureau’s involvement with the facial recognition company.
According to a recent story from Buzzfeed News, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police made between 101 and 500 searches on Clearview between 2018 and February 2020. Using data provided by a confidential source, along with public records and interviews, Buzzfeed News compiled a list of over 1,800 publicly funded agencies across the country that used Clearview, including 63 in Pennsylvania. Cara Cruz, a spokesperson for the Pittsburgh police, confirmed to PublicSource that members of the bureau received emails from Clearview and said the bureau is still investigating the extent of correspondence between Clearview and police staff. Any correspondence between Clearview and bureau staff occurred without the approval or knowledge of police command staff, Cruz wrote in an email to PublicSource, adding that the bureau has not and does not approve of the use of private facial recognition technologies. The bureau has a policy prohibiting its use.
“The fact that people were on edge that this man might not be found guilty speaks volumes about the changes that need to be made to our criminal justice system." That's how Brandi Fisher, president and CEO of the Alliance for Police Accountability, described the guilty verdict of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in a rare rebuke for police violence Tuesday evening.
PublicSource reporter Juliette Rihl shares her reflections and what she learned from trailblazing criminal justice journalists, activists and incarcerated people themselves while on a reporting project about the Allegheny County Jail.
The absence of counseling and reliance on medication is a common occurrence in facilities like ACJ, where many incarcerated people would benefit from therapy, but problems like high population turnover, understaffing and lack of funding make delivering care complicated.