Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Improving police/community relations throughout the city has been a common thread during Mayor Bill Peduto's first year in office. This goal has featured prominently in local protests against police brutality, and it was a major factor in the selection of newly hired Police Chief Cameron McLay.
Today, Councilor Ricky Burgess announced legislation to further pursue that goal. His initiative, Safer Together Pittsburgh, would address community relations and outreach by improving education, oversight, monitoring, diversity hiring practices and accountability in the Department of Public Safety.
"Today, through this community partnership, we can build relationships of trust and cooperation,” Burgess said at a press conference earlier today. “Together, through this community partnership we can increase diversity and mutual understanding. Together, through this community partnership, we can improve public safety by improving community confidence. Because I believe as a city we are safer together.”
The resolution calls for the formation of a 15-member steering committee made up of representatives from the mayor’s office, Pittsburgh City Council, Department of Public Safety, Citizen Police Review Board, Housing Authority, Pittsburgh Public Schools and the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime, the Department of Public Safety's violence-prevention program. The committee will also include community representatives appointed by the mayor and council.
“We all recognize in the Department of Public Safety that we can’t do this alone,” said Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar. “We have to have good strong relationships with our community because we only have a limited number of public-safety professionals in the city, and we need the eyes and ears of those who actually live in the community.”
Other elements of the program include: creating a series of community conversations; keeping track of community meetings throughout the city; and developing a database system to record information about those meetings and follow-up actions.
“The public-safety challenges that are plaguing our communities … are problems that police alone cannot solve,” said Chief McLay. “We should be proud of ourselves, Pittsburgh, because you don’t have to look too far around the nation to see communities handling this much differently — they’re pulling apart. Here in Pittsburgh, we’re pulling together.”