All candidates had varying opinions on the size of the city’s police budget.By Royce Jones

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The topic of policing in Pittsburgh came front and center during a mayoral debate hosted by WESA and the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation.

Candidates State Rep. Ed Gainey, Tony Moreno, Mike Thompson and incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto were all pressed Tuesday on the issues from the handling of 2020 Black Lives Matter protesters to the success of the Citizen Police Review Board.

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Question: Pittsburgh’s police review board is over 20 years old. What if anything should be done to improve it and more broadly what if anything needs to change about how the city handles officers with a history of disciplinary complaints?

Mayor Peduto: Looking at the Citizen Police Review Board over the past seven years, the number of complaints against Pittsburgh police officers has gone down. The number of lawsuits against Pittsburgh police officers has gone down. The number of violent crime and homicide has gone down and there’s a direct result from this.

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Thompson: What we can do is we can de-unionize the police force. And if we get rid of the police union, we don’t have to worry about Act 111. We can sidestep it, and then we can fire all these bad officers and the mayor has control of the police.

Rep. Gainey: If we don’t clean that up by firing them and don’t worry about the arbitration or fighting, we can’t have police and community relations that’s making sense.

Moreno: This is a complete waste of money. They do nothing positive. We give them hundreds of thousands of dollars. My response to the change would be to put it in the hands of our elected officials and our council people. Make them responsible and answer to their communities. Spend some of that money so that they can investigate and then give it to the DA’s office.

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All candidates had varying opinions on the size of the city’s police budget, which has come under fire by critics for not including more funding for trained experts to respond to mental health emergencies.