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‘They Failed To Police The Police’: Rep. Ed Gainey On Proposed Reforms

Gene J. Puskar
Demonstrators hold signs at a protest in Pittsburgh.


On today's program: State Rep. Ed Gainey discusses his legislation that would change use of force laws in Pennsylvania; coronavirus cases in western Pennsylvania are going down, but Lyme disease cases are going up; and a Hazelwood nonprofit adapts to life during the pandemic.

Changes to use of force laws would focus on “de-escalation”
(00:00 — 7:08)

Last June, state Representatives Summer Lee andEd Gainey introduced a bill to change use of force laws in Pennsylvania, one year after Antwon Rose, an unarmed African American teenager, was fatally shot by a white police officer in East Pittsburgh.

Under current Pennsylvania law, officers are justified in using deadly force when, in the moment, they feel it’s the only recourse to prevent serious injury to themselves or others, or if they believe it necessary to prevent a suspect’s escape from arrest for a suspected felony. According to Gainey,HB 1664 would change the justification required for using deadly force.

“The use of force that we’re talking about really focuses on de-escalation,” he tells The Confluence. “They failed to police the police. So our legislation discusses about how we change that to de-escalating, not just leave it so broad that it’s up to an officer to decide whether he was in fear of his life.” 

In recent weeks, there has been some movement on police reform legislation in the state House. The Judiciary Committee approved a bill that wouldcreate a database of previous disciplinary actions for use in hiring of officers early last week. Gainey says that the database is a good first step towards progress, but more needs to be done.

“It’s not ‘one bill fits all’—again, we’ll have to amend and adjust as we go forward in society,” he says. “We are never here to say that a use of force bill will solve all problems, but we have to start somewhere. The use of force bill is a great place to start.”

Coronavirus or Lyme disease?
(7:15 — 13:22)

With warmer weather and the stay at home orders lifted, people are getting outside. But doctors are warning that some of the symptoms of COVID-19, including high fever, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, can often be caused by another condition: Lyme disease.


Dr. Andrew Nowalk, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and an expert on Lyme disease, says that although COVID-19 cases are declining in the region, Lyme disease season is just getting started.

“I think anyone who has one of the characteristic rashes of Lyme, or has one of the manifestations like knee swelling or arthritis, certainly you should think about Lyme disease and not need to test for COVID in those patients."

The disease is transmitted by the bite of a black legged tick.

Nowalk says for several years Pennsylvania has led the nation in Lyme disease cases and western Pennsylvania is the hot bed for the disease.

JADA House International executive director talks making a space for community conversations
(13:28 — 18:02)

For nearly six years,JADA House International, a faith-based social ministry organization located in Hazelwood, has provided space for people to discuss social challenges.


In recent weeks, as social inequities and racial injustices have been at the forefront of people’s minds, the conversations and needs of the community have changed, saysTerri Shields, the organization’s founder and executive director.


“It creates conversations with the teenagers to know who they are, know their rights, get educated on voting, know that voting changes things and makes a difference—in not just the community, but in the nation that we live in,” Shields says. 

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Doug Shugarts is a 23-year veteran of broadcast news. Doug began his career at WBUR in Boston, where he worked on the nationally-syndicated programs “The Connection” and “Here and Now.” He won awards for best use of sound, coverage of the 2003 war in Iraq, and helped launch the station’s local news program, “Radio Boston.” In 2014 Doug moved across town to GBH and helped reboot morning news programming and launch other broadcast and web projects. Doug studied Composition at Berklee College of Music and Computer Science and Mathematics at the University of California. A resident of Pittsburgh’s Southside, Doug enjoys feasting on arepas and yucca fries at Cilantro and Ajo and meeting his canine neighbors at Big Dog Coffee.
Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at
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