Friday, November 4, 2016

Breaking: Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay resigns

Posted By on Fri, Nov 4, 2016 at 11:48 AM

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay
Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay has resigned. His last day will be Nov. 8, Election Day. He became known as a reformer in the department, which often made him unpopular within the department's ranks and popular with members of the community.

Earlier this year, members of the Pittsburgh FOP, the officers' union, gave McLay a vote of "no-confidence," however, Mayor Bill Peduto stood behind the chief, our Rebecca Addison reported at the time.

While McLay's last official day is Dec. 4th, he has accrued enough time off that his last day will be Nov. 8 and he will move back to Wisconsin shortly after, to rejoin his family. The reason he gave why this would be his last day: "I wanted to vote."

McLay was hired on the promise of instituting improved police-community relations and made a splash when he held up a sign during Light Up Night 2014 that read "I resolve to challenge racism at work, #endwhitesilence."

At a Nov. 4 press conference announcing his decision, he relayed the message to his former officers that they were on the right track in terms of a forging a positive relationship between police officers and the community.

"To the men and women of the police bureau, stay the course, you are on the right track," said McLay. "Everyone of you are leaders, everyone of you have an ethical responsibility to serve this community."

While McLay denied that the FOP's no-confidence vote influenced his decision to step down, he did communicate that results that can come after someone comes in and tries to make changes. He said that often the person who comes and and "knocks down the silos, usually ruffles the most feathers." McLay said he had been discussing the possibility of leaving the Pittsburgh police with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto since August. McLay was the first chief chosen from outside the bureau in more than 150 years.

"For everybody, I remind you that change is hard," said McLay. "Everybody wants things to be different and we all resists change, but please understand improvements only come about with change."

McLay believed he was able to accomplish some change, through his office's work forging relationships with activist and faith leaders. When Black Lives Matters protesters took to the streets in July, and the marchers wanted to enter and shut down the parkway, McLay said he was proud to avoid that by speaking with the activist leadership and persuade them to march down Ft. Pitt Boulevard instead, toward Point State Park.

He praised Pittsburgh and became emotional when issuing his send-off: "This is a great city. and it has been an honor to serve you all."

Taking over for McLay in the interim is Assistant Chief Scott Schubert, who has been with the Pittsburgh Police for 24 years. He vowed to continue the community-policing model. "We are not going to stray from our vision," said Schubert. "We believe in it." Peduto said Schubert would serve for 90 days and McLay's replacement will be named after that.

Peduto said that when he hired McLay, they had spoken about how the average term for a police chief was three years and he knew the city "only had him for a short time." Peduto, like McLay, believes that Pittsburgh policing is on the right track.

"We needed a wrecking ball chief to get reform. Now we have the opportunity with an entire new command set," said Peduto. "We are so much closer to getting there because [McLay] was our chief."

10:25 a.m.:

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Public officials calling for removing law enforcement from schools at panel tonight in Pittsburgh

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2016 at 12:26 PM

Dignity in Schools campaign poster - COURTESY OF DIGNITY IN SCHOOLS CAMPAIGN
  • Courtesy of Dignity in Schools Campaign
  • Dignity in Schools campaign poster
According to a 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Education for Civil Rights, students of color are disproportionately more likely to be referred to law enforcement and be subject to school-related arrests.

This is why a group of local, state and national policy-makers is calling for law enforcement to be removed from public school campuses, instead replaced by additional counselors and social workers. The group is part of the Dignity in Schools Campaign and will be discussing these school-arrest issues at a dinner and panel discussion tonight in the Hill District.

The message of the event is written in a press release put forth by the campaign: "Instead of hiring school police, schools should invest in hiring more counselors and training school personnel in these positive approaches, which research shows can significantly improve behavior, decrease suspensions and expulsions and improve academic outcomes."

Speakers include Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet, state rep. Ed Gainey (D-East Liberty) and Tanya Clay House of the U.S. Department of Education. Also local rapper and activist Jasiri X will be performing. 

The group is demanding that schools across the nation stop arresting minority students; shift funding from police to counselors and “peace builders”; fund measures like positive interventions; enforce the Every Student Succeeds Act; and abolish paddling in schools. The group will also be focusing on decreasing school suspensions, since data from the Department of Education shows that once suspended, students are more likely to drop out.

The event is free and starts at 5 p.m. at the Jeron X. Grayson Community Center
(1852 Enoch Street, Hill District). It's open to public and those interested can register at the group’s Eventbrite page.

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Gun-violence rates drop in Pittsburgh, Police Chief McLay credits community-policing tactics

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 5:07 PM

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay
Compared to last year, non-fatal shooting crimes were down in Pittsburgh, according to statistics released by the FBI this week. From January 2016 to August 2016, there were 25 less non-fatal shootings and about 70 less aggravated assaults with a firearm compared to the same time frame in 2015. (However, there were 44 homicides this year, up 10 from the same period in 2015.)

In a press conference on Sept. 30, Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay detailed how community-policing strategies, such as outreach, were effective in lowering these numbers. He said these strategies were  particularly effective in the North Side, given that many neighborhoods there saw significant reductions in violent crime.

“We were very targeted at those who were actually causing the violence,” said McLay. “Since most of the offenders there did not actually live there.” McLay said he wanted his officers to only target those committing the crimes. “I wanted to convey [to residents] that ‘We care about you, we love you, we don’t want you to fall victim to violence.’ That is why outreach is important.”

McLay also explained how in the East End, his officers have worked with the Pittsburgh chapter of Men Against Destruction-Defending Against Drugs and Social-Disorder (MAD DADS) over the last year. He said the work has reduced violent activity in East Liberty and Homewood. “We have seen a dramatic decrease in [complaints] in the East Liberty business district,” said McLay. “In the Homewood business district, businesses have reported less loitering and people are feeling safer.”

McLay said the working relationship with the volunteers at MAD DADS helps to increase communication with the community because “some people are not comfortable talking to the police.”

But McLay says there are still many problems to address. Violence rates are still disproportionately higher among blacks, particularly young black men. And McLay says his department will be paying special attention to Downtown, particularly the area around the Wood Street T Station, which has seen a flurry of criminal activity.

Over, McLay said he will continue to institute community-policing strategies and rejects the notion the department needs to be “tough on crime.” He points to the work with MAD DADS in the East End as proof, as crime rates have dropped there.

‘Community policing is crime prevention,” said McLay. “It reduces crime. It is not just a feel-good strategy.”

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Pittsburgh neighborhoods spend a 'Night Out' for community and police relations

Posted By on Wed, Aug 3, 2016 at 4:07 PM

Event organizers yelled to passers by, asking if they'd like something to eat from off the grill. - CP PHOTO BY BILLY LUDT
  • CP photo by Billy Ludt
  • Event organizers yelled to passers by, asking if they'd like something to eat from off the grill.

On the first Tuesday in August of every year, residents from across the nation gather for communal outdoor events to establish stronger relationships between communities and their police force.

This year, in recognition of National Night Out, Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods organized individual community outdoor events and Spring Garden’s, at Catalano Parklet, was particularly bumping.

From 5 to 8 p.m., Spring Garden neighbors gathered at Catalano Park for an evening of hot dogs, grilled vegetables, entertainment and community awareness. Local dance troupe Get Down Gang provided entertainment for neighbors, performing break dance routines.

“I think it brings communities together,” says Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “I think anytime in a neighborhood when you know your neighbors, it’s a healthy thing. It breaks down barriers. There are people with different religions, backgrounds, sexualities.

“These events improve quality of life. Sometimes people get to talk about what they want to do with their neighborhood. Those kinds of neighborhood solutions come up.”

Fitzgerald visited eight neighborhoods Tuesday evening, and said he recognized a commonality among the crowds: they were multigenerational. Night Out events were held at churches, community centers, parks and playgrounds. Organizers often bring in social service agencies and outreach groups to talk about public safety, drug addiction and childcare.

“The neighborhoods are safer when they’re together,” says Spring Garden block watch chair Denise Pierce. “Safer Together is the theme that the city of Pittsburgh public safety department uses, and we find with some of our blighted neighborhoods here — [that's] right where a lot of crime was going around.”

Police officers from the jurisdiction stopped by the Spring Garden parklet throughout the evening. Larry Crawford, police community relations officer, spoke to the crowd briefly, introducing himself to neighbors. There were appearances from Fitzgerald and District 1 Pittsburgh City Councilor Darlene Harris as well.

“We had everybody here. It probably scared people away,” says Raphael Walton with a laugh. Walton and Pierce co-organized Spring Garden’s Night Out event.

“The event was our most successful in terms of the entertainment,” says Pierce. “We were given a budget. We were able to pay [the performers] $200. We were never able to do that before. So in terms of this as an event, and giving multiple things, that dancing really set it apart from any of our other times. It was pretty much a nice summer night, with a little entertainment and good food.”

Wayne Younger, minister at Cityview Church, spoke at the event and praised community gatherings and his neighborhood.

“I just think it’s an important thing whenever the community is gathering, just to be a part of it and to care for neighborhood unity,” says Younger. “To basically get out with the neighbors and find out what moves them."

“I basically gave thanks to the folks who organized the event and talked about what I see as the unique things about our neighborhood,” he says. “It’s a racially diverse neighborhood. People who have means and people who don’t have access live right next door to each other. I also talked with them just about the fact that when we do things like this event and come together across all our different lines, we humanize each other.”

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Pittsburgh faith leaders to hold community hearing to discuss action and Black Lives Matter

Posted By on Wed, Jul 13, 2016 at 5:02 PM

Rev. Rodney Lyde speaks at the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network about race and police. - PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • Photo by Ryan Deto
  • Rev. Rodney Lyde speaks at the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network about race and police.

On June 12, a coalition of faith leaders convened to lament the recent shootings of two black men by police officers and the killings of the five police officers in Dallas, during a Black Lives Matters protest. The Rev. Rodney Lyde, president of Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, says he is deeply saddened by all the killings, but is calling for a move that goes beyond protesting.

“This is a time for above and beyond,” said Lyde. “If our police are the best trained in the world, but we fail to deal with basic racism and the adversity of people of color ... our black people are arrested, locked up, and the worst possible outcome, killed.”

Alton Sterling, of Louisiana, was shot and killed by police officers after he was confronted for selling CDs on the street. Philandro Castile, of Minnesota, was shot by a police officer while alledgedly reaching for his wallet while being pulled over for a broken tail light. Pittsburgh activists marched through Downtown on June 9 to protest the killings.

Lyde said that police-community relations, or lack thereof, are not the sole cause of all the tensions and shootings of African Americans. PIIN has been involved in other social-justice fights in Pittsburgh, including faith leaders that were arrested outside of the UPMC Steel Tower after protesting the right for workers to form a union. He applauded the effort forged between PIIN and Pittsburgh Police to have officers trained in implicit bias but says that there is much more to accomplish to deal with the root causes of “structural racism.”

“That is where see the manifestation,” said Lyde. “In the lack of affordable housing, the disparity in education, and there are not enough family-sustaining jobs.”

Dave Swanson of PIIN and pastor of Pittsburgh Mennonite Church in Swissvale concurred with Lyde’s sentiments and said that perceptions need to be changed before positive progress occurs. “As long as black bodies and black lives are viewed as lesser, this will continue,” said Swanson.

The Rev. De Neice Welsh of PIIN announced that in response to the recent killings, PIIN will hold a community meeting on July 21, at 7 p.m., at the St. James AME Church in Larimer. Welsh said that topics will include economic inequality, loss of community resources, and self-hatred in minority communities.

“We see to convene this forum to seek justice,” said Welsh. “We believe faith should be at the center of the work going forward.”

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Pittsburgh sees decrease in number of complaints against police officers

Posted By on Wed, Mar 23, 2016 at 2:34 PM

From left: Mayor Bill Peduto, Lourdes Sanchez-Ridge, Deborah Walker - PHOTO BY REBECCA NUTTALL
  • Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
  • From left: Mayor Bill Peduto, Lourdes Sanchez-Ridge, Deborah Walker
Two years ago, when Mayor Bill Peduto took office, he moved the Office of Municipal Investigations out of the Department of Public Safety and put it under the purview of the city's law department. Today, Pittsburgh was given an update on the progress the mayor's office has seen as a result of that change.

"We moved OMI under the law department so that it would become an independent organization that would still have oversight under the department of law," said Peduto. "What we've seen over these past few years of working together with OMI, our law department and our police bureau has been rather significant."

According to the law department, lawsuits filed against the City of Pittsburgh have decreased by 50 percent in the last two years. Both City Solicitor Lourdes Sanchez-Ridge and OMI Director Deborah Walker attribute the decrease in lawsuits and complaints to the increased training being done in all city departments.

The total number of complaints filed against police officers also decreased over the last two years and is down by 43 percent. This is a drop from 337 in 2013 to 191 last year. The total number of complaints against police officers are down across the board in every category including conduct toward the public, conduct unbecoming an employee, neglect of duty and use of force. 

"Starting with the police department, [the decrease] is due to the leadership of Police Chief Cameron McLay holding officers responsible for their conduct. Discipline plays a role in that. And discipline can be anywhere from counseling to termination and there's a lot between counseling and termination. Often times the public will think the only thing to remedy a complaint would be termination. But I've seen a decrease in officers violating policies because of the early intervention of  the chief of police and his command staff."

Despite the decrease in complaints in many areas, complaints did increase among non-officers, including employees in the Department of Public Works, where complaints went from five to 13. Peduto attributed the increase to whistleblowers, while Walker and Sanchez-Ridge said it's due to the openness of OMI since it was restructured.

"People are now coming to OMI and using our department as an investigative branch of city government. So now they know there is someone who will listen to them and take the appropriate action," said Walker. "We've been very forthcoming in contacting departments and letting them know if they feel there is misconduct in their office, they can come to us, and we will do a thorough and fair investigation."

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Charges dropped against teen arrested in ruckus outside Downtown Pittsburgh's Wood Street T Station

Posted By on Tue, Mar 15, 2016 at 3:47 PM

On Dec. 16, 2015, a teenage boy was thrown to the ground and cuffed by Port Authority Police during an incident outside of Wood Street T Station, Downtown. City Paper happened to be on the scene and took video of the arrest shown above.

The 16-year-old boy, Mohamed Abdalla, spoke to CP on the record with his parents present the day after the arrest. He was charged with disorderly conduct. On March 11, those charges were dropped, according to Abdalla’s lawyer.

After capturing Abdalla’s arrest, CP’s video shows a Pittsburgh Police officer yelling at the reporter. This video went viral and led to investigations of the Wood Street ruckus by the Citizens Police Review Board and the Pittsburgh Police Bureau’s internal investigation office.

The ruckus that led to Abdalla’s arrest (and the arrests of four other teenage boys, all who are refugees from East 
  • Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
Africa) was allegedly started when one of the teenagers pressed an emergency-off button on an escalator inside Wood Street T Station. Port Authority officers confronted that boy, who allegedly resisted arrest, and then cuffed him and placed in a squad car parked on Wood Street. (Port Authority Police have recently been under fire by community groups for their conduct at Wood Street and in the shooting death of Bruce Kelley Jr. in Wilkinsburg, in January.)

Abdalla told CP that he was friends with the first boy arrested and he was present when that boy was confronted by officers. Abdalla exited the T station and watched from a crosswalk on Wood Street as the officers placed the boy in the car. A plainclothes Port Authority officer then looked at Abdalla and called out, “Do you want trouble?” and told him to back away. Abdalla was at that time 20 to 30 feet from the vehicle and a group of officers.

Abdalla didn't move; three Port Authority officers then dashed at him, tackled him to the ground and threatened to use Tasers. (Though one Taser was held in the suspect's back, it was not discharged.) The officers handcuffed Abdalla and placed him in a squad car.

Carly Rice, a law student at Duquesne Law School, recently took up Abdalla’s case and told CP that the arresting officer didn’t show up to Abdalla’s hearing. Consequently, the charges against him were dropped.

Members of Abdalla's family and community in Northview Heights believed the boys were unfairly targeted by the police officers. Of the incident, a family member in December asked: “Why did the police only pick these gentlemen when they are all from Africa? When something happened like this, shouldn’t more people be arrested? Were they waiting for these kids?”

Sam Hens-Greco, attorney for three other teenagers arrested on the scene, says that none of the charges have been dropped against his clients. Haji Muzhimu, the 19-year-old adult arrested, is facing felony riot charges, as well as misdemeanors for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, among other charges. This is Muzhimu's first offense on record. The two other minors, who CP covered here, have been charged with misdemeanors for criminal trespass.

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Review: Jelani Cobb at Carnegie Mellon University

Posted By on Fri, Feb 12, 2016 at 12:01 PM

Black history, we’re often reminded during Black History Month, is simply American history. But as Cobb noted in his great talk yesterday, the reverse is also true: You can’t grasp American history without understanding the role of race.

That role goes beyond the well-documented fact that the nation’s fundamental wealth was extracted from exploited black bodies — starting with chattel slavery, which, as every schoolkid should know, was written into the Constitution. (And, as Cobb reminded us, a Jeffersonian condemnation of which was written out of the Declaration of Independence.)

Race is also at the heart of so seemingly simple a matter of how many states we have, and where. Cobb cited the long-running 19th-century practice of admitting new free and slave states in “pairs”: Maine was created only so that Missouri could be a state, for instance. And he said Gen. Andrew Jackson (not yet president) seized the Spanish territory of Florida for the U.S. largely at the behest of Georgia slaveholders, who were losing runaways to the nonslaveholding land to the south.

History remains alive. When Cobb, a history professor at the University of Connecticut, visited Ferguson, Mo., for The New Yorker, he said, he got “the overwhelming sense that my syllabus had jumped off the page.” From Ferguson to Charleston, S.C., Cobb found the history of race in America embedded down to the very street names: Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Charleston church where a horrific shooting took place last year, is on a street named for pro-slavery politician John Calhoun.

Cobb also recalled how, for decades, federal policy to facilitate the mortgages that helped build middle-class America effectively excluded black Americans. And even many apparent advances in race relations are heavily qualified: How could Barack Obama’s election in 2008 herald a “post-racial” era when only 39 percent of white voters chose him? (And why, for that matter, Cobb asked, did no one laud black voters as post-racial during the decades they spent voting for white candidates?)

Still, Cobb said he counts himself as an optimist, though his optimism is tempered by a historian’s long view. Take Obama’s election. While an African-American chief executive had been unthinkable as recently as, oh, 2007, Cobb said, “Until we had a black presidency, we did not properly conceive of the limitations of one.” Likewise, just as Obama himself is a community activist who decided he could achieve more through electoral politics, his struggles in office have convinced a whole new generation of activists, like the folks in Black Lives Matter, that real change comes from the streets.

Finally, some interesting words on racialized monuments. Though Cobb cheered the removal of the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s statehouse, he pointed out that other, less obvious plaques and statues honoring Confederates and even lynchers remain abundant there and elsewhere. Yet “I do not think we should take any of those monuments down,” he said. For one thing, simply eliminating the monuments allows whites to grant themselves too easy an absolution for the wrongs of the past. Two, “like removing fingerprints from the scene of a crime,” mere removal effaces a history we need to remember. It would be more useful, Cobb said, to amend the monuments with signage identifying them as “monuments to our own inhumanity.”

Cobb was CMU’s featured Martin Luther King, Jr., speaker. (Here's the rest of the school's month-long roster of MLK programming.) The free on-campus event was attended by about 200 folks, most of whom seemed to be students and faculty. But the talk, which began at 4:30 p.m., was so good I wish more Pittsburghers could have seen it. Is it too much to ask of CMU (and other universities, for that matter) to hold more of these events after 6 p.m., say, when more working folks could attend? Just a thought.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Teens cuffed/cited outside Wood Street T question why they were singled out

Posted By on Fri, Dec 18, 2015 at 5:25 PM

Abdulkadir Abdi being taken across the street from his bus stop on the north side of Liberty Avenue. - PHOTO BY REBECCA NUTTALL
  • Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
  • Abdulkadir Abdi being taken across the street from his bus stop on the north side of Liberty Avenue.
Videos capturing a Pittsburgh Police officer screaming at a City Paper reporter and bystanders at the scene of an alleged crime Downtown this past Wednesday have garnered regional media attention. But it is the issues of those arrested and cited that might deserve the most scrutiny.

Two teenage males were arrested — one juvenile and one 19-year-old adult — and three other teenage males were issued criminal citations. Every male arrested is part of a refugee community of East Africans that live in the housing projects in Northview Heights.

But two boys who were apprehended and cited for trespassing, Salat Abdalla, 17, and Abdulkadir Abdi, 16, told CP that they had nothing to do with situation inside the Wood Street T station, and never even set foot inside the station. Abdi says they did not even arrive on the scene until around 3:30 p.m., 15 minutes after the first juvenile allegedly hit an escalator emergency-stop button.

The ruckus, at the Wood Street T Station, was initiated by that alleged pressing of an emergency button. A bit of chaos followed, with teenagers allegedly resisting arrest and rocks allegedly being thrown. Port Authority police called for backup and seven Allegheny County Sheriffs came in support, as well as Pittsburgh Police officers and canines.

A crowd formed on the sidewalks surrounding the T station during and after the skirmish, and police officers acted “in an apparent attempt to clear the roadway and to disperse the crowd” as a result, according to a statement released by Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay. One Pittsburgh Police officer screamed at a City Paper reporter who was videotaping the scene on his cellphone, telling the reporter and a group to get back while brandishing his baton and telling to them to “quit causing problems,” even as other bystanders walked past the officer, closer toward the scene.

That video has been widely covered in local press and circulated on social media. Another video recently released might garner additional attention

Elsewhere on the scene were Salat Abdalla and Abdulkadir Abdi. The two teenagers attend Allderdice High School. Both were apprehended at a bus stop on the opposite side of Liberty Avenue. CP witnessed the two boys being cuffed by Port Authority police about 45 minutes after the reported altercation in the T station.

Abdalla says that his sister had called him from Downtown and was crying, and told him to come Downtown. When he arrived Downtown, he could not find her, so he decided to wait at his bus stop with his friend and nephew Adbi.

Eventually, a Port Authority police officer told him he was trespassing and to “get out of there.” Abdalla then questioned how he was trespassing.

“But there were many other people standing right there,” says Abdalla. “Why couldn't they tell them that they were trespassing?”

Abdalla says that the officer then said, “I am talking to you, and you better get out of here, you are trespassing.” Then Abdalla says that when he was about to leave with Abdi, a police officer moved close to Abdi and said, “Get your ass outta here.”

“Why would you get up in someone’s face like that, like you were about to fight them?” says Abdalla. “[Abdi] is just a teenager.”

Salat Abdalla being arrested. - PHOTO BY REBECCA NUTTALL
  • Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
  • Salat Abdalla being arrested.
Abdalla says that Abdi then verbally questioned why the officer was acting aggressive toward him. Abdi was then apprehended and pushed up against the wall. Abdalla asked the officer why he was arresting Abdi.

“And then they came at me for no reason and started arresting me too,” says Abdalla. “And then when they were taking me to the police car, I told them they were hurting my wrist and then he said, ‘I don’t give a fuck.’”

Abdalla was not sure why they were being initially told by the officer that they were trespassing because, as he says, they never even tried to get inside the T station.

“We were trying to mind our business and we were trying to get home,” says Abdalla. “We always wait for our bus at that stop. Other people were standing at that bus too, but he had to pick on us. I feel like I was arrested just for asking, ‘Why are you arresting my nephew?’”

The older sister of the one adult arrested, who goes by Fatuma R., says that she finds the whole situation highly questionable.

“Why did the police only pick these gentlemen, when they are all from Africa?” she asks. “When something happened like this, shouldn’t more people be arrested? Were they waiting for these kids?”

Both Abdalla and Abdi are part of a community of East African refugees (the two are specifically Somali Bantu). However, they dress in standard Western clothing, speak fluent English with little to no accent, and have lived in America since they were young children. They are also American citizens.

Other incidents in the immediate area were also captured on video. Siraji Hassan, a close family friend of Abdalla and Adbi, also says that the girl who was pushed to the ground by the officer in the second video shown here, is also a teenager and an African refugee. Hassan says she was concerned about her other friend, Mohamed Abdalla, whom CP caught on video being thrown the ground and arrested by Port Authority police. Hassan says the girl was taken to the hospital as a result of the altercation and was released on Dec. 17.  

Salat Abdalla and Abdi also said they barely know the boy who allegedly hit the escalator stop button, and that he goes to a different high school than they do.

Abdalla did say that while he was waiting for the bus, he and Abdi were talking on the phone to relatives and were sometimes speaking in one of their native languages close enough for police officers to overhear. He also says they were standing next to and talking to some female African students, who wear traditional head scarves.

Fatuma says she is now fearful that the boys were being investigated beforehand, since there were hundreds of people standing on the street, but only African immigrants were arrested. Abdalla estimates that there were 20 to 30 African students in the crowd surrounding the arrests.

“This shows us that one African maybe did a mistake, so does that mean all the Africans have to be punished?" says Fatuma. "We are scared for our family. We are scared the police officers might abuse our kids' lives. We don’t trust them anymore.”

Hassan says “we ran away from Somalia because of situations like this. Now we are afraid it will happen again.”

Aweys Mwaliya, president of Pittsburgh's Somali Bantu Community Association, says that when Somali Bantus first came to Pittsburgh they felt it was a safe place. Mwaliya says that refugees are educated about American culture and customs when they arrive in the U.S., including how the police work.

Mwaliya says that the history of the Bantus in Somalia and the surrounding region is one of discrimination, and that adults who remember living in Africa were afraid of police, because of the how police treated them there.

"It was something I saw with my own eyes; in Kenya, there was no process," says Mwaliya. "When you get into [the police's] hands, you get beaten, and unless you confess to the crime, they don’t let go."

He says that there is a difference between the young and the old in the Somali Bantu community. Mwaliya says that those who arrived in U.S. when they were really young cannot compare what happened with police in Kenya and Somalia. But he also notes the growing sense of anxiety inside the community, due to the rising tensions between Muslims in the U.S. and the conflict between African-Americans with the police.

Port Authority spokesperson Adam Brandolph said in an email that the claims by the family members of the arrested teenagers are "completely inaccurate."

"Our police officers do not discriminate," wrote Brandolph in an email. "The outcome of the incident was based entirely on the actions of the individuals involved."

Brandolph says that neither ethnicity nor cultural background was a factor in the arrests.

"They were not issued citations because of their ethnicity, religion, what clothing those associated with them were wearing, or the language they spoke," wrote Brandolph. "They were issued citations because they threw rocks at police officers and failed to disperse when they were instructed to do so."

When CP told them the Port Authority's assertion, Abdalla and Abdi both denied ever throwing rocks and were shocked to learn about the accusation. "Where would we even find rocks around there?" Abdalla says. Neither Abdalla and Abdi, however, was cited for rock-throwing, only for trespass.

Brandolph says that Port Authority police have "reviewed the incident at length with our police chief and have found nothing about our officers’ handling of the situation to be problematic or contrary to their training."

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More video surfaces from events outside Pittsburgh's Wood Street T Station, officer shoves teen girl with baton

Posted By on Fri, Dec 18, 2015 at 1:46 PM

On the left is the officer approaching a City Paper reporter. On the right is an officer pushing a teen girl with his baton.
  • On the left is the officer approaching a City Paper reporter. On the right is an officer pushing a teen girl with his baton.
A police officer who was videotaped yelling at a City Paper reporter on Wednesday, as the reporter videotaped the scene outside of the Wood Street T Station, has shown up in a YouTube video pushing a young girl with his baton and shouting obscenities at the crowd.

The most recent video, shot by someone who posted it under the name Asi Lovely, shows the unidentified officer pushing the teen to the ground and shouting, "Get on the sidewalk, god damn it. Get the fuck out of here."

He then tells a person recording the scene to "Get it all on tape. Make sure you get it all, asshole." 

The teen who was pushed can be heard asking about her brother, whom she says police have taken into custody, before she is pushed. The video initially shows the teen standing near an Allegheny County Sheriff's deputy. However, the city police officer pushes the deputy out of the way to get to the girl and then pushes her with the baton.

Sources tell CP that the officer's name is Nicholas Papa, who according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article graduated from the police academy in 2009. The Pittsburgh Citizens Police Review Board has opened an inquiry into the interaction on Wednesday between Papa and City Paper reporter Ryan Deto. The interaction occurred as Deto videotaped the scene of the arrest of a juvenile who was allegedly hitting the emergency button on the T station's escalator; an adult who was charged with three misdemeanors; and three juveniles who were later cited for misdemeanors and released. The first several seconds of the video are below, and it can be seen in its entirety here.

City Paper brought the video to the attention of Beth Pittinger, the executive director of the CPRB. Pittinger called the video “awful.”

“We believe this to be the same officer from the City Paper video, and yesterday I said he lost his professional poise, today it’s even worse,” Pittinger said. “Even the little things like banging the mailbox with the baton and the language shows me that this guy was clearly out of control. You don’t do this to children." 

“I am stunned with that officer’s conduct toward that kid. He even pushed a deputy out of the way to get to her. This is clearly unbecoming at the very least. She’s crying and upset, and he uses force against her.”

Pittinger said she believes the officer also stepped outside of the professional code of conduct by pushing the deputy out of the way.

“That deputy didn’t seem to be concerned,” Pittinger said. “He wasn’t escalating. He was in command and control of that situation. Apparently whatever that young girl did annoyed the city officer, and he pushed the deputy and ran in there like a bat out of hell.”

Late Thursday, Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay released a statement about the initial video indicating that: "On first examination, the video provided shows no evidence of serious police misconduct. The matter will be investigated by Police Zone 2 command and the Office of Municipal Investigations, to address questions raised about officer conduct. During tense times such as these, it can be challenging for officers to maintain professional decorum, but doing so is an expectation of our profession. Training, counseling or discipline will occur as the need is identified during these reviews."

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