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Women's Groups back police domestic violence law; FOP says butt out 

 

"Groups of ladies" and Pittsburgh City Council should butt out of police domestic-violence concerns, brass said at the third public hearing on the matter.

"The Fraternal Order of Police does not want city council stepping in," Fraternal Order of Police President James Malloy said. Malloy was addressing city council at a hearing, held Oct. 18, to discuss legislation sponsored by council President Doug Shields. Written in response to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's controversial decision to promote three officers who have faced allegations of domestic violence, the legislation touts a "zero tolerance" policy toward domestic abuse by police.

It seeks to put into the city code new rules mirroring those endorsed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The proposed ordinance would provide continuing training in recognizing and stopping domestic abuse, and would mandate that all applicants to the bureau be screened for abuse or abusive tendencies. The ordinance is due for a preliminary council vote on Oct. 24.

Police Chief Nate Harper, though, says that an ordinance, which would change city code, is unnecessary. "We have heard your concerns and are addressing them. We have developed a new model for policy," Harper said. "A domestic-violence review board has been appointed and will meet quarterly. The Office of Municipal Investigations, under civilian leadership, will investigate all domestic-violence complaints. It will insure that no incident will slip through the cracks." OMI is an internal-affairs investigating body under city aegis.

"This council has not seen that policy," said Shields. "I'd ask that we see a draft of that policy."

Activists say that a policy is not enough. Unlike an ordinance, which gets written into the city code and stays in place regardless of whoever the mayor, police chief or city councilors are, a policy can be changed.

"It is a policy with no hope for citizen input," said Jeanne Clark, president of the Squirrel Hill chapter of the National Organization for Women. "Policies come and policies go. We need an ordinance. We need a law -- not good words, not policy." She complained that 114 days had elapsed since the mayor promised "immediate action and zero tolerance."

The department "has done everything in his power to make council happy, to make these groups of ladies happy," Malloy said, referring to women's groups that have been working to pass the legislation, with hopes of strengthening it in the future.

Malloy criticized council for unanimously supporting Harper's nomination and then questioning his leadership at the first sign of dissent. "You turned this into police-bashing. What do we do with these guys, kick them to the curb?" He referred to one of the promoted officers, George Trosky, who was the subject of a protection-from-abuse order in 1998. Malloy said Trosky's record since then has been exemplary and that a decade-old PFA shouldn't stand in his way. "That's why we have a chief, Office of Municipal Investigations, to look at this. The critical examination of [officers'] histories must be made by the chief."

"When I vote for a director, I do not give him carte blanche," Shields replied.

"We set the rules that the mayor then follows," said Councilor Bill Peduto. "There have to be certain rules, not guidelines." Peduto then hit on a flashpoint in Shield's ordinance: It doesn't specifically address what to do once an officer has a PFA issued against him or her. "The U.S. military has a rule that as soon as a PFA is issued, we take the gun away. Why not Pittsburgh?"

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