Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto (center) stands with two members of his Pittsburgh Community Task Force for Police Reform, Richard Garland (left) and Tim Stevens, at the unveiling on Oct. 19, 2020, of the panel's report, at the City-County Building, Downtown. (Photo by Rich Lord/PublicSource)

Policing task force calls for 16 reforms, more data on Pittsburgh law enforcement

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and his hand-picked task force released 16 recommendations for reforming policing on Monday, as the mayor pledged to consider them all and to start implementing data-related measures promptly. The report of Peduto’s Pittsburgh Community Task Force on Police Reform

comes nearly five months after the death of George Floyd, under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, set off a summer of protests and reignited concern with police use of force, especially against Black people. 10 big problems with policing, and approaches to addressing themThe mayor called the 47-page report “a baseline” for improving policing in the city. “We’re at a very historic moment in this country,” Peduto said at a press conference in the City-County Building. “And there has never been a time like this, since the late 1960s, in order to address systemic racism, and in all the different areas that we can see it, whether it’s through education, or access to healthcare, or housing, or whether it is in police brutality.”

The report’s recommendations:

Gather and analyze more data on routine policing actions, to better understand “disparate outcomes” in which race seems to be a factor in law enforcement.

(Photo via Shutterstock)

Allegheny County Council considers bill regulating facial recognition and other surveillance technologies

A new bill could regulate Allegheny County’s use of facial recognition and other surveillance technology. Legislation introduced to Allegheny County Council Tuesday would require county officials to obtain council’s approval before soliciting, acquiring or using facial recognition or other surveillance technologies, except in extreme circumstances. It would also require a public policy detailing how each technology can be used. “The public use of facial surveillance can chill the exercise of constitutionally protected free speech,” the bill states, also noting the technology is less accurate in identifying the faces of women and people of color. “...The benefits of using face surveillance, which are few and speculative, are greatly outweighed by its harms, which are substantial.” 

Councilwoman at-large Bethany Hallam, a Democrat who is sponsoring the bill, told PublicSource: “We’re trying to bring transparency and accountability to one of the least transparent and accountable facets of law enforcement, and that’s surveillance.” The bill is co-sponsored by Democratic Councilwoman Olivia Bennett whose district includes Downtown, North Side and Bellevue Borough.

Robert Aldred flips through photos on his phone showing injuries sustained when a police dog bit him in June 2017. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

Police chase settlement pushes lawsuit payouts beyond $12 million since 2009

PublicSource reviewed the cases because federal court is typically the referee of last resort in disputes between citizens and police. Officials sometimes portray the court as a backstop against other systems’ shortcomings. Scholars of law enforcement, though, view federal court as an uneven playing field on which results have little to do with the severity of a constitutional violation or the injuries caused.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

Behavioral crisis responses and police are focus of new, unannounced Allegheny County panel

As incidents both local and national continue to raise questions about policing and mental health, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services [DHS] has quietly convened a panel that appears to be reviewing the public safety and social services response to behavioral health crises. The 28-member Allegheny County Crisis Response Stakeholder Group held its first full meeting, virtually, on Friday. The meeting included remarks by DHS staff including Director Marc Cherna, plus county Emergency Services Chief Matt Brown, Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert, and representatives of The Pittsburgh Foundation* and the Council of State Governments Justice Center. Its formation does not appear to have been heralded by any public announcement. It comes as the city sees near-daily protests demanding changes in policing, sometimes including calls to “defund” police, which some describe as the shift of law enforcement resources to human services or community building.