PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – There was a packed house before the Allegheny County Council on Tuesday as a group of citizens lobbied for an Allegheny County-wide civilian police review board.
The group thinks oversight is needed after the fatal shooting of Antwon Rose.
KDKA’s Lisa Washington Reports:
Numerous challenges and hurdles lie ahead, but Tuesday night, Allegheny County Council voted 8-6 to hold a series of public meetings on the possible creation of the county-wide civilian police review board.
Outside the county courthouse on Tuesday, a group of activists had a brief demonstration and then entered the courthouse to petition the Allegheny County Council to form the civilian police review board.
There already is a civilian police review board within the city of Pittsburgh, but that handles complaints of alleged police misconduct only within the city borders. The activists are asking for one to cover the 120-plus municipalities throughout Allegheny County, plus the 100-plus police departments that are under the county umbrella.
“I think having some civilian oversight of law enforcement activities, in whatever municipality it may be, is a good idea. That’s the original purpose of our local government structures – our councils, our managers, our mayors,” said Elizabeth Pittinger, the executive director of the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board.
This is an idea that has been brought up before, but advocates say the fatal shooting of Rose by East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld has given this new urgency.
“We want to call upon the Allegheny County Council to step up and step forward and to create and to empower a civilian police review board for all of Allegheny County,” said activist organizer Khalid Raheem at the meeting. “We also recognize there are some legal challenges and some structural challenges that have to be addressed. We definitely see ourselves as being part of that discussion.”
There are difficulties with the creation of the county-wide civilian review board. The county doesn’t actually have jurisdiction over all the municipalities. The individual municipalities would have to approve the creation of this board and their jurisdiction within their towns.
“We don’t oversee these government bodies,” said County Councilman Samuel DeMarco pointed out one of the many challenges. “There’s a lot of work that would have to be done in Harrisburg, so I don’t know why… we’re putting the cart in front of the horse number one.”
During the public comment period, William Anderson, Executive President of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Young Democrats, told the panel he wants “any citizen of Allegheny County to feel there is an open and transparent process for them to file their complaints so we can build community police relationships.”
DeWitt Walton sponsored the measure, along with co-sponsor Paul Klein. Walton said the goal is something “that protects and engages all segments of our community. It’s about how we make a difference in people’s lives.”
They hope to have an ordinance before council in October.