As the country braces for unrest, here’s what you should know about staying safe in Pittsburgh

The country is on edge after a mob incited by the president overtook the U.S. Capitol last week, resulting in the death of five people and a sense that the security of American democracy is at risk. 

The Washington Post reported that right-wing groups are planning additional armed marches leading up to the Jan. 20 inauguration, according to Alethea Group, which analyzes and combats disinformation online. The report by Alethea Group’ showed plans for activity in all 50 state capitals as well as some other cities, including Pittsburgh. In a Jan. 12 statement, the FBI’s Pittsburgh Field Office said the agency is aware of reports of possible “protests in our area,” and that FBI agents interviewed a “Pittsburgh-based individual” cited in the report.

Outside of the Allegheny County Jail building

Allegheny County Jail sued for alleged assaults on women with psychiatric disabilities

Three formerly incarcerated women with disabilities are suing the Allegheny County Jail [ACJ] for being allegedly assaulted by a corrections officer. 

In the federal lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday evening, the women, who are being represented by the Abolitionist Law Center, Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project and K&L Gates, claim ACJ Sergeant John Raible assaulted them by burning them with chemical irritants such as pepper spray and OC pellets, strapping them into a restraint chair and, in one case, physically beating one of the women. The complaint also names Warden Orlando Harper and three other jail officials as defendants for failing to “adequately train, supervise and discipline ACJ corrections officers for such conduct,” which it claims has resulted in “the rampant use of unlawful and unconstitutional force” on inmates. The county does not comment on lawsuits or legal matters, spokesperson Amie Downs wrote in an email to PublicSource. 

According to the lawsuit, Raible pepper sprayed 27-year-old April Walker when she was two months pregnant and slammed her face into the concrete floor, resulting in her hospitalization. Walker has asthma, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression and PTSD, the complaint says. 

It also claims that Raible pepper sprayed 35-year-old LaVonna Dorsey while she was locked naked in a “strip cage” and then placed her in a restraint chair, causing injuries. Dorsey has chronic asthma, severe anxiety, depression and PTSD, according to the complaint.

An application for a mail-in ballot on a tan clipboard.

Election week was stressful in Pennsylvania. Will future elections look the same?

Pennsylvania was shoved into the spotlight of the week-long, real-life drama of an election unlike any other in modern history. Counties worked around the clock for days to tabulate a record number of mail-in ballots, and the nation waited to learn the fate of the commonwealth’s 20 electoral votes. Cable news viewers across the world became intimately familiar with local geography, such as the voting tendencies of Philadelphia’s “collar counties” and Erie’s status as a presidential bellwether. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman caught national attention for saying that President Donald Trump could “sue a ham sandwich” and that every vote would be counted despite Trump’s protests. 

Is this our new normal? Every four years, will the country watch as Pennsylvania spends five days, or more, counting mail-in ballots?

A person walking in front of a sign that says "Voting place."

PA won’t see full results on election night. Experts urge trust in the process anyway.

On election night in 2016, voters across the country stayed up into the early morning hours awaiting the presidential election results. The race was a nail-biter, but at 2:30 a.m. — six and a half hours after polls in Pennsylvania closed — the Associated Press called the election for Donald Trump. The timing of election night on Nov. 3 will likely be very different. With more than 2.8 million Pennsylvanians requesting mail-in ballots as of Oct.

(Photo via iStock)

Emails show Allegheny County district attorney’s office used trial of controversial facial recognition technology Clearview

“Dystopian” and “'Black Mirror'-esque” are among the ways critics have described Clearview, a facial recognition technology startup founded in 2016. The program’s ability to scrape photos off of the web and instantly aggregate information on just about anyone with an online presence, without their knowledge, has drawn the ire of privacy advocates, Democratic lawmakers and the same social media companies it relies on for data. 

The system has been used by more than 600 law enforcement agencies in the United States and abroad — including, as newly obtained records show, the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office. 

Emails obtained by PublicSource through an open records request show that Clearview trial accounts were linked to email addresses of four employees in the office of District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr.: analysts Andrew Colvin, Ted DeAngelis and Norah Xiong, and detective Lyle Graber. The trials started at different times, with emails first referencing a trial on Feb. 7 and last noting a log in on March 17. Three of the employee accounts were signed in to more than once.

A police officer blocks traffic as people walk by chanting during a June 18, 2020 march against police violence from Freedom Corner. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

Who polices the police? In Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, a critical crossroads for civilian review

The death of George Floyd and other incidents of police brutality have catalyzed nationwide calls for police reform and put civilian review of law enforcement at the forefront of policy conversations. Between a recent call for a referendum to strengthen Pittsburgh’s Citizen Police Review Board [CPRB] and renewed efforts to create a countywide board, local elected officials are taking steps to create and expand civilian oversight.

Pittsburgh motorcycle officers Downtown during a June 4, 2020 rally against racism and police violence. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

Activists call for defunding the police. Here are 6 key stats about the $115 million Pittsburgh police budget.

In the wake of George Floyd’s death by a police officer in Minneapolis and other cases of police brutality, activists and Democratic lawmakers across the country are calling for the “defunding” of police departments. The idea raises many questions. What does “defund the police” mean? Is it viable? And what does Pittsburgh’s police budget currently look like?