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Audit of Police Bureau suggests better data collection, addressing racial disparity in arrests

A Pittsburgh Police SWAT vehicle.
Keith Srakocic
FILE - A Pittsburgh Police SWAT vehicle.

On today’s episode of The Confluence:

First joint audit of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police completed 
(0:00 - 9:54)

More than 20 recommendations were made to the city’s Police bureau in a recently released report. The City Controller's office and the Citizen Police Review Board conducted this joint audit

The goal of the audit was to study if the police force was serving the city equitably across all communities. It found in 2020 Black residents made up 65% of arrests, while only making up about 23% of the city’s population.

“We know that in the city of Pittsburgh, some neighborhoods are treated differently than others,” says City Controller Michael Lamb. “I can't say this was all that surprising, but the depth of it surprised me.”

One finding of the report is that Black residents made up 85% of arrests for marijuana possession, even though the actual use of marijuana varies little across racial groups. In 2016, the city decriminalized small amounts of marijuana possession, however officers have to contend with state laws making possession illegal.

“I think you get into very dangerous territory when you start to decide how you're going to take away officer discretion when they are sworn to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth as well as the city,” says Citizens Police Review Board Executive Director Beth Pittinger.

Pittsburgh’s 2030 District report shows energy reduction in the city
(9:58 - 17:22)

If the world’s average temperature rises above 1.5 degrees Celsius, scientists and experts warn of dire outcomes for the planet, such as mass animal extinctions and extreme weather.

In 2012 the Pittsburgh 2030 District was established with the goal of reducing energy and water consumption by 50% by the year 2030. A report released yesterday, assessing a decade of work, shows energy use has been reduced so far by about 35%, and water use reduced by about 37%.

“It's not easy to reduce energy or carbon emissions in buildings, but I would also say that we have the tools to do it,” says Chris Cieslak, vice president of program strategy and impact for Green Building Alliance. “Now it's a question of accelerating all of the activity to really muscle in and put those tools in place.”

Cieslak says those tools include adding renewable energy sources, increasing the energy efficiency of existing buildings, and encouraging business leaders to create long-term plans for moving their technology to zero-carbon options.

The Three Rivers Arts Festival has released its 2022 lineup
(17:26 - 22:30)

The 63rd annual Three Rivers Arts Festival begins June 3, and will be held in the Cultural District, instead of at Point State Park due to a change in state park regulations.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust recently revealed the lineup of artists that will be featured at the festival, including Grammy-Award-winner Cory Henry and Madeline Edwards, who is known for being named one of CMT's "Next Women of Country.”

The event runs from June 3 to June 12, and the full lineup of artists and exhibition, and maps for navigating the event can be found at the Cultural Trust’s website.

“The artists do switch out over the ten days,” says Sarah Aziz, director of festival management at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. “So, I would suggest coming back more than once.”

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.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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