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Changing Public Perception Of Police Begins With ‘Hiring The Right People,’ Says Peduto

Megan Harris
90.5 WESA
Mayor Bill Peduto says that gaining Pittsburgh's trust in the police has to start with internal changes to the culture.


On today's program: Mayor Bill Peduto discusses racism and policing in Pittsburgh; and the Hot Club of Pittsburgh introduces listeners to the wonders of jazz from the '20s and '30s. 

“No doubt” about racism in Pittsburgh, says Peduto
(00:00 — 10:56)

As protests, marches, and vigils against racism and police brutality of Black people continue across the country and here in Pittsburgh,Mayor Bill Peduto says there is “no doubt” that the nation’s African American community isexperiencing two pandemics: COVID-19 and racism.

“The only question is, in this moment, will we be able to pull ourselves together to work as one to be able to address it in a meaningful way?”

Protestors and activists are asking for concrete reforms, includingcutting police budgets, increasing oversight,removing police from schools, andabolishing or defunding the police.

“They want to see police reform in a much more tangible way than simply the training of officers, and they want to see direct investment in our Black neighborhoods,” says Peduto.

On June 1, Pittsburgh police clashed with protesters in East Liberty.Protestors say they were targeted “with explosives, chemical agents and ammunition which is known to seriously wound and sometimes kill,” including rubber bullets and tear gas. Two days later, Peduto issued a statement saying “Without question, there is a difference of opinion about what happened that day and the appropriateness of the actions of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.”

Some of the protestors present on that day have filed a federal lawsuit against Peduto, Police Chief Scott Schubert, command staff, and Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich for allegedly escalating a peaceful protest into a scene of “pandemonium" and "panic.” Peduto says that a month later, “There’s not really going to be clarity until the OMI [Office of Municipal Investigations] and the Citizens’ Police Review Board reports are done.”

Changing the public perception of police and starting to gain the trust of Pittsburghers has to start with hiring the right people, Peduto says.

“Who are we recruiting to be a police officer?  And then, what are our expectations of them?”

He says the internal culture must also change.

“And that means is listening to the good officers, listening to the ones who are involved in the community, listening to the ones who’ve had to face racism, the ones that had to face sexism, the ones that had to face criticism because of their identity. And listening to those officers in order to change the culture of Pittsburgh police into one that’s more of a guardian than a warrior.”

“Hot Club” brings lost jazz records to Pittsburghers
(11:05 — 17:47)

Nearly a century ago, French jazz fans formed a group called The Hot Club of France. At the time, jazz was called “hot” music. American jazz records were hard to come by, so they pooled their record collections to make more music available to more people.


Now, cities across America have their own “Hot Clubs,” making the music of that earlier time available today.


The Hot Club of Pittsburgh was formed by pianist and music scholarTom Roberts. He spoke with 90.5 WESA’sBob Studebaker about the club and the importance of making music available to all who want to hear it. "I want to share with you this and perhaps you will take something from this and you will go back and look at other things and experience taht there is so much more music than we actually have access to," Roberts says. 


Following the pandemic shutdown, the Hot Club has now resumed its outdoor events.



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.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter 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 jzenkevich@wesa.fm.
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