Posted by Helen Gerhardt
As I work on longer bi-monthly narratives and essays, I’ll regularly post my primary and secondary source research, sometimes along with commentary, but often as stand-alone documentation or background for current stories, concerns and recommendations for change by community members.
Yesterday, I met with Beth Pittinger, Executive Director of the Citizen Police Review Board to discuss her own central concerns and recommendations for needed changes in policing in Pittsburgh. She forthrightly addressed several of the most controversial topics to heat up our local presses in the last year:
- the need for a new Police Bureau Chief of Police to to make a decisive break from a pervasive pattern of scandals through demonstrated independence, integrity, professionalism, and commitment to overhauling the system;
- her concern that members of the police force that illegally partnered with Chief Nathan Harper to form Diverse Public Safety Consultants Inc remain paid employees of the Bureau. Commander Eric Holmes and Sergeant Barry Budd remain in positions of power within the police force, not even receiving administrative leave.
- outside police employment (in some cases wildly excessive moonlighting), the “pimping” of official secondary details of cops in uniform for big bucks, the draining of neighborhood Zone protection to serve Steelers, Pirates and Penguins, and the inherent potential for corruption in all such sale of public police powers to private interests;
- the power and will of the Fraternal Order of Police to continue such lucrative sales;
- the recent exclusion of the CPRB from prior review of the Bureau revisions to rules and regulations on secondary details, in what seems to be a violation of this city ordinance passed by Council in 2013;
- whether Mike Huss should continue as Public Safety Director when corruption flourished on his watch;
- the need for the continued absolute CPRB independence from any Mayor’s chain of command;
- the need for an assessment and advisory role rather than punitive “teeth” for CPRB – contrasting their powers and functions with those of the Human Relations Commission and the Ethics Board;
- building better relationships between police and community, examples of successful efforts, and how we can participate.
She expressed hopes for the greater transparency, maturity and professionalism of the new Peduto Administration, but strongly asserted the responsibility of citizens to be far better informed and engaged in pressuring their elected officials to decisively restructure the system. She urges Pittsburghers to hold all leadership accountable, rather than to ever dehumanize the police who protect our public safety, or to accept corruption as the price for amicable relations with power.
Audio of interview with Beth Pittinger: