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'Emotions Were Raw:' Police Chief Scott Schubert On A Turbulent Season Of Peacekeeping In Pittsburgh

Keith Srakocic

Pittsburgh police chief Scott Schubert has presided over a tough summer, fraught with tension between police and protestors. 

Demonstrators repeatedly took to city streets after 17-year-old Antwon Rose was shot by an East Pittsburgh police officer in June. It wasn't his department or his municipality, but Pittsburgh officers have been involved from the beginning.

Schubert says he knew the protests would come to Pittsburgh and that the department has learned a lot from demonstrations following other officer-involved shootings around the country.

The protests have been largely nonviolent, and they've resulted in few arrests. There also haven't been reports of police use of force.

Schubert said it’s best to exercise restraint.

"Using a softer approach with your uniform [is among] some of the things learned in other places,” Schubert said. “Militarized vehicles that [protestors] perceive coming up - that has actually caused more conflict [with] police.”

“The ultimate goal is not to arrest,” Schubert added. “We understand that [demonstrators] want to protest whatever cause that they’re doing. But we also have to look at the safety of the city as well.”

Schubert said his department has been clear about what it will and will not allow.

Under a city policy issued last month, if protestors block city-designated ‘red zones’ - which aren’t to be blocked at all - the police will give them at least 10 minutes to disperse. The red zones include major intersections as well as hospital entrances and exits.

Schubert said the goal is to balance demonstrators' First Amendment rights with public safety.

"Emotions were raw," he told The Confluence on Monday. "As long as they were peaceful in marching -- you know, no damage to property, nobody getting injured, nothing like that... let's try to keep them safe while they were doing it."

Schubert says officers will be ready when Rosfeld makes his next scheduled court appearance next month.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9AM to hear newsmakers and innovators join veteran journalist Kevin Gavin, taking an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here.

An-Li Herring is a reporter for 90.5 WESA, with a focus on economic policy, local government, and the courts. She previously interned for NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg in Washington, DC, and the investigations team at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A Pittsburgh native, An-Li completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan and earned her law degree from Stanford University. She can be reached at
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