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City Controller Says Police Review Board Should Get More Funding, Enforcement Power

Ariel Worthy
90.5 WESA

On today’s program: Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb released his first audit of the Citizen Police Review Board and recommends giving the board more resources; a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and women’s health talks about how substance use disorder impacts pregnant people and their babies; and a Carnegie Mellon University research team looked at how the tabs left open on internet browsers stress people out, and how the tool they’ve developed might help.

The City Controller’s office released its first audit of the Citizen Police Review Board
(0:00 — 6:05)

For the two decades since its first investigation in 1999, Pittsburgh’s Citizen Police Review Board has considered more than 3,000 cases of complaints about police conduct.

Now, the City’s Controller Office has completed its first performance review of the entity.

“We thought it was a good time to do it, especially given what’s going on in the world of criminal justice reform, and in the discussions between the review board and the police department,” says City Controller Michael Lamb.

According to his office’s audit, about 60 of the CPRB’s reviews went to a hearing by the Board and there were 41 complaints validated by testimony. Lamb says the number of allegations and types of complaints have been steady over the years.

“It’s complaints about brutality, complaints about overuse of authority,” says Lamb. “What’s changed is the technology, you know now you have cameras and you have other kinds of evidence.”

Lamb says the board’s recommendations to the police department should be binding, and such a change would also need to make the process by which police contracts are written more transparent. The audit also recommends the review board’s budget be a percentage of the police department’s overall budget.

Substance use treatment for pregnant people will soon be more accessible
(6:07 — 12:27)

The Biden administration has loosened restrictions on who can prescribe buprenorphine, a treatment for opioid addiction.

Previously, healthcare providers, such as doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, were required to undergo training before prescribing this treatment.

Now, a wider array of practitioners, including certified nurse midwives, can offer this medication to patients, without days of training.

“The whole country has seen a rise in the prevalence of opioid use and opioid use disorder over the past ten, fifteen and twenty years, and when we see a rise in opioid use and opioid use disorder among all individuals, we see that rise among pregnant people,” says Dr. Elizabeth Krans, an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at UPMC Magee Women’s Research Institute.

Krans says pregnant people can be given buprenorphine or methadone, but there are different rules regulating how each can be distributed.

“We treat the disease the same in and outside of pregnancy,” says Krans, though she notes there are some differences in dosing and frequency. “What we really try to do at Magee is use the pregnant period as a window of opportunity to provide a lot of the supports, the medication, the wraparound services, the health care engagement, which many women really are getting for the first time.”

Krans says this loosening of restrictions is an opportunity for medical providers to build trust with pregnant people who are concerned for their family.

How researchers are trying to reduce the stress of internet browser tabs
(12:31 — 18:00)

Here’s a question: How many tabs do you have open right now on your internet browser? Do you hold off on closing all your tabs because there’s that New Yorker article you intend to read?

“Tabs are the fundamental way that we work and live as our lives have largely moved online,” says Aniket Kittur, a professor in Carnegie Mellon University’s Human Computer Interaction Institute. He led a research team to examine why people keep too many tabs open on their web browsers.

Kittur says people “think of tabs really as opportunities,” so closing them can feel like missing out.

His team presented their paper, "When the Tab Comes Due: Challenges in the Cost Structure of Browser Tab Usage," at the Association for Computing Machinery's Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems this week. In it, they describe how tabs ultimately create more work and waste time and energy as people try to manage them.

As a result of this research, Kittur’s team built a browser extension called “Skeema” to help tabs become more like tasks that people can address.

“As of now, we’re about six or eight weeks after [running a controlled study with Skeema], and 75% of the people using it are still using it,” says Kittur, indicating that perhaps there is a broader interest in a tool to help manage tabs.

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.

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