Demonstrators gathered outside the City-County Building Thursday morning to protest police misconduct and petition for changes to the current contract between the City of Pittsburgh and its police force, while representatives of the Fraternal Order of Police presented contract negotiation arguments before an arbitration committee inside.
Event organizer Celeste Scott of We Change Pittsburgh joined with 13 other protesters on the steps of the building to demand public access to police disciplinary reports, more authority for the Citizen Police Review Board (CPRB), and enforcement of a voter referendum that requires Pittsburgh police officers to reside within city limits. That referendum was declared void by a labor arbitrator in March, 2014 and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto appealed the decision to the Commonwealth Court. Other protesters called for an end to police brutality and racism.
Scott also said she wanted to draw attention to the contract negotiations, which have stalled as the FOP resists Act 47 budget restrictions. Pittsburgh recently renewed its designation as a financially distressed city under the act.
“Today we chose to be here because the FOP is here,” Scott said. “This is the first time they’re having public arbitration in, I think, ever, so we wanted to be here and have a presence. Have a voice. And let them know that we are here and we’re not going away until we get some justice.”
Jessica McPherson, of Garfield, said she wants to see greater civilian oversight for the police in Pittsburgh.
“We need for the Citizens Police Review Board to be able to actually subpoena officers in the course of their investigations and to discipline officers,” McPherson said, “because right now there is no independent mechanism for disciplining police officers.”
Police misconduct cases are investigated by the CPRB and the city’s Office of Municipal Investigations.
According to a written statement by Peduto, the FOP has not cooperated so far during the negotiation process.
“The FOP has spent its time before the arbitration panel attacking the Act 47 plan— and even me,” Peduto said.
At the time of publication, the Pittsburgh chapter of the FOP had not responded to a request for comment.