The Pittsburgh Citizens Police Review Board has opened an inquiry into the behavior of a Pittsburgh Police officer trying to control the crowd outside the Wood Street T Station on Wednesday.
Cell phone video taken by a Pittsburgh City Paper reporter shows the unidentified officer yelling at the reporter and at least one other individual off camera, then striking his extendable baton or “asp” against a light post.
“The obvious and pretty clear cut issue for us right now is the conduct of that Pittsburgh police officer," said CPRB Executive Director Elizabeth Pittinger. "He appears to have lost or not had any professional poise at that moment.”
The video also shows a scuffle between a suspect and Port Authority of Allegheny County Police followed by an arrest. The City Paper reports PAT officers caught a suspect tampering with the escalator and he and other juvenile suspects began to fight with the officers. While those activities might be concerning to Pittinger, she notes the actions of those officers are outside of her board’s purview.
Pittinger’s official inquiry report says the officer’s conduct was unbecoming of a Pittsburgh police officer.
“He certainly appeared hostile in his approach and not demonstrating professional control of himself when he engaged that recorder,” Pittinger said.
The report will be assigned to an investigator, who will be tasked with verifying material facts, identifying and notifying the officer, interviewing witnesses and preparing a report for the board, which, due to the holidays, will not meet until late next month.
Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay confirmed in a written statement that the bureau will conduct an investigation complaints received, there will be an investigation into the conduct of Police Bureau members.”
Pittinger praised Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay for his past efforts to improve officer conduct and said she assumes he is addressing the matter.
“By the time the board meets, this may be resolved,” Pittinger said.
McLay's statement went on to say, “On first examination, the video provided shows no evidence of serious police misconduct. The matter will be investigated by Police Zone 2 command and the Office of Municipal Investigations, to address questions raised about officer conduct.”
Pittinger stressed that most Pittsburgh Police officers do their job well every day and the department, in her estimation, has made strides in improving its relations with the community, but incidents like this hurt those efforts.
“It certainly not the rule, and we don’t want to give it more than it is worth, but we can’t ignore it either,” Pittinger said. “The board is here for this kind of reason, to analyze an officer’s conduct against the standards that they are supposed to conduct themselves.”
UPDATED: 8:04 a.m. Dec. 18, 2015 to include a statement from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.