PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — For 23 years, Pittsburgh has had an independent citizen police review board, charged with hearing complaints of misconduct against city officers.
As of Monday, there had been none stemming from this weekend’s protests.
The board’s director says she’s been watching the events closely and finds fault only with some of those in the streets.
“It’s been just awful, terrible, sad,” says Citizen Police Review Board Executive Director Elizabeth Pittinger.
She described herself as “angry, frustrated, disappointed that the original message and all of the sentiment that was being expressed was distracted from when the violence erupted.”
Pittinger says people sometimes rationalize police misconduct by arguing that there are no more than “a few bad apples” among the many in law enforcement.
“We’ve got bad apples in the community, too,” she says. “And we have an obligation as a community to call off those among us who are there for the purpose of creating disruption, chaos and destruction.”
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As for the protest that turned violent on Saturday, Pittinger says, “Our officers stayed back. They have always allowed protests and demonstrations. They protect those demonstrators. They let it go to the point where the line is crossed and criminal behavior engages.”
Asked if the relationship between police and the community in Pittsburgh is significantly different, better or worse than in any other major city, Pittinger says it is for the better.
“I think Pittsburgh has changed its culture significantly,” Pittinger said.
She says that change began under former police chief Cameron McLay and has continued under current Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Chief Scott Schubert. She also points to greater overall community engagement with law enforcement fostered by former U.S. Attorney David Hickton.
Now, Pittinger says the city needs to let those protesting what happened in Minneapolis know that they have been heard.
“Mr. Floyd didn’t die here. So being empathetic and caring and being concerned and hoping to prevent egregious incidents like that in the future is what our goal should be,” Pittinger said.