Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Pittsburgh leaders approve policing reforms

Pittsburgh City Council gave final approval to a series of reforms to police procedures and policies. But council members say the reforms aren’t the city’s final answer to addressing issues raised after the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
The legislation, sponsored by Councilmen Ricky Burgess and R. Daniel Lavelle, is supported by other council members and Mayor Bill Peduto, who is expected to sign the bills, according to Peduto’s spokesman, Tim McNulty.
They are highlighted by formation of a Stop the Violence Fund that will enact a police hiring freeze and redirect $250,000 remaining in a budget for new recruits to programs aimed at reducing crime and violence.
Redirect money, not defund
The city can’t defund the police, as some activists have called for, Burgess said. But it can stop hiring new police officers and redirect that money toward alternative programs that help people.
“This money is simply the first step. It is a good-faith effort to say we believe in programming,” Burgess said.
Council also approved a ban on use of chokeholds by police and a ban on buying surplus military equipment for police use without council’s approval.
Another bill that was passed requires sworn police officers to have a “duty to intervene” when faced with a situation within city limits that doesn’t put them at risk of bodily harm.
The move is an attempt to prevent incident similar to the Minneapolis case, where three police officers watched as Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck until he died.
“Black lives actually matter, and we as a council now have a chance to prove it, in Pittsburgh,” Burgess said. “That is to protect the health and safety of Black people.”
The moves come as the police bureau was in the process of strengthening its policies, public safety spokeswoman Cara Cruz said.
“We have met with Council members and respect their recommendations,” Cruz said.
The reduction in funds for police recruits will hamper the department’s ability to build a diverse department, she said.
“We will work with city officials and council to ensure funding is available in the future to recruit new officers who represent the community they will serve and who are willing to make a difference,” Cruz said. “We will look forward to working together in the future.”
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