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A Year After George Floyd’s Death, How Has Pittsburgh Policing Changed?

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Katie Blackley
/
90.5 WESA
Pittsburgh police watch from the sidewalk during a "Civil Saturday" demonstration organized by the Pittsburgh-based Black, Young, and Educated in September.

On today’s program: A member of the city’s Community Task Force on Police Reform explains how Pittsburgh policing has changed since the death of George Floyd, and what improvements they’re still hoping for; Mayor Bill Peduto talks about his future plans, after losing a third term in the primary election; and as vaccinations slow throughout Pennsylvania, two red counties are taking different approaches to encourage residents to get their COVID-19 vaccine.

Pittsburgh’s Police Department has made lots of changes since the death of George Floyd
(0:00 — 5:53)

One year ago today, George Floyd was killed by then-Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin. That murder sparked protests and demonstrations and demands for criminal justice reform. Has anything changed in Pittsburgh?

“The things that have been accomplished include changes in use-of-force policy in the Pittsburgh Police department itself,” says University of Pittsburgh law professor and WESA legal analyst David Harris. “The City Council banned choke holds, the City Council demanded a duty to intervene.”

Many of the changes come from recommendations by the Community Task Force for Police Reform, of which Harris is a member.

“We are still waiting for recommendations on the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and other kinds of projectiles,” says Harris. “We’d also like to see more action on changing the police enforcement on the routine level that’s resulting in a disproportionate impact with things like traffic stops, field contact stops and frisks and so forth.”

Harris says while many large cities have made cuts in police budgets, what more people seem to support is greater funding for community-led efforts, like violence prevention or economic justice.

Pennsylvania as a state has adopted some policing reforms as well, but not gone as far as other states. Harris says if cities want to enact change, they should do so without waiting for a sweeping change from states or even Congress.

Bill Peduto reflects on eight years in the mayor’s office and what comes next
(5:58 — 13:48)

Bill Peduto always said he wanted to serve three terms as Pittsburgh’s mayor. But now, with Ed Gainey all but certain to become the city’s next leader, Peduto says he has his sights set beyond Pittsburgh.

90.5 WESA’s Chris Potter caught up with the mayor to talk about what Gainey’s win says about the state of the Democratic party, his post-election conversation with President Joe Biden, and what he plans to do next.

Lack of health care infrastructure continues to create COVID-19 vaccination barriers
(13:53 — 18:00)

Months into Pennsylvania’s vaccination effort, rates of people getting the shots vary wildly in different parts of the state.

Some of the differences can be seen as correlating with politics. After all, Pennsylvania is divided. It’s home to one of the bluest congressional districts in the country, as well as dozens of counties that went overwhelmingly for Trump.

But as Keystone Crossroads’ Katie Meyer reports, political extremes don’t cleanly predict the willingness to get shots. Take, for instance, two red, rural counties with very different outcomes.

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
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@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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