EAST PITTSBURGH, Pa. (KDKA) — Like many small municipalities in the region, East Pittsburgh has a full-time police chief and a nine-member part-time police force.
And that, said District Attorney Steve Zappala, is a problem.
“Most of the guys that are in these small towns, they train to minimum standards,” Zappala said.
In East Pittsburgh, officers are trained at the Allegheny County Police Training Academy along with some local training, but Zappala says he was surprised at what else investigators learned at the scene.
“In response to questions by major crime investigators when they first came on the scene in East Pittsburgh, they said, ‘how do you handle these situations, what are your policies.’ And they said, ‘we don’t have policies.’ That’s a very dangerous situation,” Zappala said.
The District Attorney really knocked the East Pittsburgh Police force saying they lacked protocols and policies to deal with situations like this and criticizing them as a small borough with really part-time police officers.
“Yeah, in this case, I am concerned about the lack of policies and procedures in East Pittsburgh,” said Zappala.
Of course, East Pittsburgh is not alone.
“We have 118 police departments, some of which are run really well, some of which we have to keep an eye on all the time,” Zappala said.
So KDKA went to the municipal office to get reactions and found the office closed, locked up tight.
Next door at the East Pittsburgh police office, the door was locked and the no one answered the door bell.
So far, no East Pittsburgh official has gone on camera to respond to Zappala’s comments.
Ashley Cannon grew up in East Pittsburgh, and says the force has charged dramatically over the years from full-time local police to part-time non-residents.
“We knew the police and everybody was involved,” Cannon said. “Now it seems to be like a revolving door.”
“There’s just so many part-time police as opposed to what there was before,” adds Lori Whitney, a long-time resident.
Whitney says going part-time occurred as crime has gone up in the community.
As KDKA reported first, Officer Michael Rosfeld joined the East Pittsburgh Police force just three weeks before he shot Antwon Rose and was sworn in ninety minutes before the incident.
No word yet on exactly what his training was, but training remains an issue, say some residents.
“I believe they are untrained. They are not professional, the way they deal with individuals, especially us black folks in these communities,” said Charles Poindexter of East Pittsburgh.
One resident says a small overworked police force leads to tragedies.
“Anybody that’s overworked can be very agitated when they encounter someone suspected of committing a crime,” said Felicia Richardson of East Pittsburgh.
“They can be very nervous, and when you have all of that impacting you and you’re trying to do your job, you’re not going to do your job efficiently.”
KDKA has learned that local officials have met with their attorneys — and a statement is forthcoming.
Zappala noted East Pittsburgh has reasons for legal concern
“Criminally, no. Civilly, they’ve got a lot of answering to do,” he said.
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