- Associated Press - Monday, October 19, 2020

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A taskforce charged with examining Pittsburgh‘s policing policies in the wake of protests over police brutality that erupted in the city and across the country this summer has issued a report recommending dozens of reforms including practicing de-escalation, placing limits on use of force and providing better counseling networks for officers.

The 47-page report from the Community Task Force for Police Reform was released Monday. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said the group’s recommendations would be a “guiding influence” as the city makes changes to police policies and budgets to restructure police operations.

“The Taskforce report is a model not only for Pittsburgh but the nation, and is a springboard for actions we must continue to take to protect Black lives,” he wrote in an emailed statement.

A spokeswoman for Peduto said the mayor and the Public Safety Department leaders will review the recommendations for implementation at the city and state level. Some of the recommendations would require city council or state legislative changes including any that involve the Fraternal Order of Police union, contract negotiations and some disciplinary matters.

The group found racial disparities in everyday policing including Black men being almost 10 times as likely to be frisked during traffic stops as white men and Black men between the ages of 19 and 29 being almost 18 times as likely to have been the subject of a warrantless search and seizure than their white counterparts.



The group recommended keeping a closer eye on these interactions, collecting more data and creating a public clearinghouse to be transparent.

The group also made recommendations on changes to the use of force policies such as requiring de-escalation, barring shooting at moving vehicles unless there was a deadly threat and avoiding deadly force on people who only pose a threat to themselves or are exhibiting mental illness.

It also recommended significantly curtailing the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bags during non-violent protests. The members also wrote that the department should immediately stop the practice of “kettling,” which is a crowd control tactic that leads to trapping protesters and arresting them instead of allowing them avenues to disperse.

During the late May and early June protests in response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police, there were several tense interactions between police and protesters in Pittsburgh that resulted in videos of tear gas, rubber bullets and other less lethal ordinances being used. Several lawsuits have been filed by protesters, Peduto asked for an investigation into the police department’s actions during the protests and the task force was charged in part to look at those responses.

Some other task force recommendations included creating more access to mental health counseling for officers and shifting social service duties away from police by creating partnerships with other organizations like the school district that might be able to help address community needs while keeping people out of the criminal justice system. The group recommended hiring more minority officers to better represent the community and opening the disciplinary process for complaints to the public as well as complaint narratives and records.

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