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Police Reform Task Force Presents Recommendations For Changes

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Jake Savitz
/
90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and members of the Community Taskforce for Police Reform presented their recommendations for changes in policing on Monday.

The group focused on eight key areas: eliminating racial disparities, officer wellness, reimagining policing, training, recruitment, education and hiring, relations with the Fraternal Order of Police, transparency and accountability, the use-of-force policy, and crowd-control methods that include using tear gas, rubber bullets, flash bang devices and other “less lethal” weapons.

Some of the recommendations include creating a social services group to handle non-violent calls, like those involving homelessness, instead of having police respond. Peduto said the city has partnered with Allegheny Health Network to create the group.

“Right now throughout this country, the No. 1 way of dealing with homelessness, addiction and people who are dealing with mental health issues is by calling 911,” he said. “There’s nothing in the criminal code that makes it a crime to be homeless or have mental health issues, or struggle with addiction.”

The group also recommended making more efforts to diversify the police force, and to use data to try to track and find explanations for racially disparate outcomes in policing. Perhaps most notably, the task force recommends that the city study -- and perhaps suspend -- the use of “less-lethal” weapons against demonstrators, and to create an internal and public data platform for law enforcement activities.

The report says the city should bring in an outside party to evaluate the use of bean-bag rounds and other devices, as well as crowd-control tactics like "kettling" protesters by corralling them together, at demonstrations. If that review does not produce a report within six months, the task force said, "a moratorium will go into effect on using the ... tactics described above. Such moratorium will remain in effect until such time as the independent organization completes its work."

The group also met with the Fraternal Order of Police, and came up with recommendations to encourage the Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Commission to exercise its authority to more often revoke licenses for certain types of misconduct.

Peduto created the task force this summer after a series of protests over police misconduct in Pittsburgh and across the country. Protests, especially those in late May and early June, ended with police using controversial crowd-dispersal methods, tactics which have drawn criticism and a lawsuit from activists and the community.