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Politics & Government

Officials Say Complaints Against Police, Suits Against City Declining

Sarah Schneider
90.5 WESA

The number of complaints filed against Pittsburgh police has decreased 43 percent since 2013. During the same time period, complaints and lawsuits against the city and its employees have dropped by 50 percent.

Heads of departments that investigate those complaints and suits said the decreases are attributable to better training.

Pittsburgh Office of Municipal Investigations director Deborah Walker said the department has stressed early intervention – addressing misconduct immediately. Walker said in her two decades as a police officer, she found that counseling an officer on inappropriate behavior is beneficial and can save their career.

“Often times a public would think that the only thing to remedy a complaint would be termination, but I’ve seen some … decrease in officers now violating the policies, because of the early intervention of the City of Pittsburgh, through the chief of police and his command staff,” she said.

The numbers of allegations against police offers are down in the top four categories: conduct toward the public, inappropriate conduct, neglect of duty and use of force.

When Mayor Bill Peduto took office two years ago, he took the office out of public safety and put it under the supervision of the law department to avoid situations of police investigating police. The office investigates citizen complaints of civil or criminal misconduct alleged against city employees working in the departments of fire, police, EMS and building inspection.

The City Law Department, the body of attorneys available to the city and its officials, represents the city in claims against the city.

Solicitor Lourdes Sanchez Ridge said the decrease in  complaints filed against the city can be attributed to better employee training.

Sanchez Ridge said the city hosts various seminars to train employees in employment law and civil rights violations – areas where they see the most suits.