Policing | BLOGH: City Paper's Blog |
Wednesday, July 13, 2016

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

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

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

click to enlarge Pittsburgh sees decrease in number of complaints against police officers
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

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

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, February 5, 2016

Posted By on Fri, Feb 5, 2016 at 3:03 PM

click to enlarge Pittsburgh City Council approves funds for Homewood ShotSpotter system
CP file photo by Mike Schwarz
Pittsburgh City Councilor Ricky Burgess
Earlier this week, Pittsburgh City Council gave preliminary approval to a measure that would increase funding for the city's ShotSpotter detection system from $194,000 to $329,000.

"If you've been reading the papers, there have been several homicides solved and more prevented as a result of this technology," said District 9 Councilor Ricky Burgess, who originally sponsored legislation to implement the system in his district.. "It actually both saves lives and reduces crime."

The ShotSpotter system covers three square miles in Homewood. The acoustic surveillance system uses sound to pinpoint the location of gunfire and pairs microphone sensors with video cameras to provide real-time information to police officers.

According to Heath Johnson, a crime analyst with the police bureau who spoke at the Feb. 3 council meeting, 86 percent of shots-fired incidents would have been missed if the ShotSpotter system wasn't in place. He also said there were 13 arrests in 2015 that came as a result of ShotSpotter alerts.

"There have been a number of incidents where police have arrived on the scene and found someone who was critically injured and [they] were able to get EMS," said Johnson.  "By doing so, it has probably reduced the homicide rate, because those individuals very well could've been DOAs if we'd had a slower response to those incidents."

There were 20 homicides in Zone 5 in 2015, according to Johnson. Ten of the homicides occurred within the ShotSpotter coverage area, and 10 were outside of the area. The homicide clearance rate within the area was 40 percent compared to only 10 percent for homicides outside of it.

"These positive outcomes are extraordinary, especially in a police bureau that has been struggling with getting officers deployed and just having enough manpower on hand. This has been a critical tool in doing that, and it seems an effective use of government resources to fight crime and respond to victims," said Johnson. "It assists in data-driven proactive policing in high-violence areas, which is a stated goal of our chief. I would recommend that ShotSpotter continue to be funded and, if even to be so bold, to expand that coverage area in the future." 

The majority of council members voiced support for the ShotSpotter system, and some expressed hope that the system coverage area would eventually be expanded to neighborhoods in their district.

"The more tools we have, the better we are," said Councilor Darlene Harris. "Just listening to the news and the radio this morning, [there] was another shooting in Homewood [and] the ShotSpotter caught it. I'm glad it's a success and hope to see it on the North Side real soon because that was the plan."

City council did not discuss when or if the system would be implemented elsewhere.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

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

click to enlarge Teens cuffed/cited outside Wood Street T question why they were singled out
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.”

click to enlarge Teens cuffed/cited outside Wood Street T question why they were singled out
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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Posted By on Fri, Dec 18, 2015 at 1:46 PM

click to enlarge More video surfaces from events outside Pittsburgh's Wood Street T Station, officer shoves teen girl with 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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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Posted By on Thu, Dec 17, 2015 at 3:14 PM

click to enlarge Update: Pittsburgh Police Chief promises investigation of Wood Street T activities
Image from video by Ryan Deto
Police take an individual into custody on Liberty Avenue Wednesday
Updated: 3:40 p.m.: Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay released a statement Thursday saying “As a result of complaints received, there will be an investigation into the conduct of Police Bureau members.” However McLay added that: “Video was released showing a chaotic scene with officers acting in an apparent attempt to clear the roadway and to disperse the crowd in order to prevent further disturbances.

“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.”

The full release is below:

PITTSBURGH, PA – The following is a statement from Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Chief Cameron McLay:

Pittsburgh Police responded to assist Port Authority Police with a large juvenile disturbance at the Wood Street T-Station at approximately 3:30 p.m. yesterday. As a result of complaints received, there will be an investigation into the conduct of Police Bureau members.

Video was released showing a chaotic scene with officers acting in an apparent attempt to clear the roadway and to disperse the crowd in order to prevent further disturbances.

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 indentified during these reviews.

Original Post: More details are emerging about the incident that occurred inside the Wood Street T Station Wednesday afternoon when two Port Authority Police Officers allegedly witnessed a juvenile male pressing the emergency shut-off button of an escalator at the Wood Street T station, Downtown. The aftermath of that one alleged action, led to the apprehension and arrest of a juvenile, an adult and the citation of three additional juveniles.

During the incident, crowds formed in the surrounding sidewalks, and the intensity of the scene escalated as police officers from Pittsburgh Police, Port Authority Police and the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office attempted to disperse the gathering crowds. A video taken by City Paper shows one suspect being taken into custody, followed by an incident between a Pittsburgh Police officer and a CP reporter, with the officer brandishing his baton and yelling, "Make sure you get it all on your tape, big boy, with your telephone." The Pittsburgh Citizens Police Review Board has opened an inquiry into the officer’s interaction with the reporter.

Here's what has been learned, so far, about the initial incident:

At approximately 3:17 p.m., two PAT police officers allegedly witnessed a male juvenile pressing the emergency shut-off buttons of an escalator inside the Wood Street T station, according to PAT spokesperson Adam Brandolph.

The two officers approached the juvenile and requested to see his identification. He allegedly refused and then “pulled away from the officers” and “attempted to run away,” says Brandolph.

Then the juvenile was apprehended, and he allegedly kicked the two officers during the arrest. While this juvenile was being placed in the squad car, at least one juvenile was throwing rocks at the police, according to Brandolph.

Allegheny County Sheriff William Mullen says that seven of his officers responded to calls for back up from the PAT, with the PAT saying that bricks and bottles were thrown. Brandolph says that according to the report, rocks were thrown, not bricks or bottles.

One of the juveniles was taken to Shuman Juvenile Detention Center, and Brandolph says that juvenile was the one who allegedly hit an escalator’s emergency off button.

After this arrest, a 19-year-old male, Haji Muzhimu was arrested and charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obstructing public passages. Brandolph says the PAT police report alleges that “he failed to vacate the area and continued to occupy the area while yelling and screaming.” According to a criminal court search of Muzhimu, he has no prior arrests.

An additional three juveniles were apprehended and cited. Two were cited with trespassing, and one was cited with disorderly conduct. It was not confirmed by Brandolph who the individual in the CP video was or what he was charged with.

Brandolph says that there is video footage of the incident from cameras in the Wood Street T station that is currently being examined by PAT police. Those videos have not been made public, nor would he say if they would be.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Posted By on Wed, Dec 16, 2015 at 9:05 PM

UPDATED (8:40 p.m.): The Pittsburgh Citizens Police Review Board has opened an inquiry into a Pittsburgh City Police Officer’s interaction with a City Paper reporter following the incident at the Wood Street T Station this afternoon. 

CPRB Executive Director Beth Pittinger told CP that “the conduct demonstrated by the officer on that video was so excruciatingly unbecoming on its own merit that there is really nothing to look into.” Pittinger made the decision on her own and CP was informed when she was contacted for comment for this story.

“His demeanor was not a command-and-control demeanor,” Pittinger said. “He was probably driven by his anger."

“Banging on a light pole like that can be an attention-getting technique used by officers. But it was done here in a way that had no intention of gaining public order. He was angry. He wasn't professionally engaging people and anybody can ask me to defend that statement.”

Pittinger said she opened an inquiry and sent a note about the matter to Police Chief Cameron McLay “asking him what it was all about. I expect this will be dealt with quickly."

When asked if the officer’s conduct was inappropriate, Police spokesperson Sonya Toler told CP Editor Charlie Deitch this evening that “if that’s your belief then you need to file a complaint. I’m Not going to judge anything beyond that.”

When asked for a police command opinion on the officer’s conduct Toler said, “If you want a command opinion you need to file a complaint.”

The detention and citation of five individuals at the Wood Street T Station between 3:30 and 4 p.m. this afternoon spilled out onto Liberty Avenue and led to some tense moments between police and onlookers.

According to Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie, PAT officers allegedly caught a suspect, a minor, tampering with the escalator at the Wood Street T Station. Ritchie alleges that the juvenile fought back and kicked officers. That juvenile was taken into custody and taken to the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center. Ritchie says an adult male and  three other juveniles tried to intervene. The adult was arrested and taken to the Allegheny County Jail. The three other juveniles were also detained, cited and then released.

A female cousin of the arrested juvenile told City Paper that police “jumped on him, but they did not ask him who pulled the switch.”

“[The officer] was a big man, and you jumped on him for what?” she asks. “We are asking them and saying ‘that is our cousin,’ we need to know what happened. But then they did not want to tell us.”
But the action inside of the station was just the beginning.

Both Pittsburgh Police and Port Authority of
click to enlarge UPDATED: Arrests in Downtown Pittsburgh T station lead to confrontation with officers, onlookers
Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
ficers then started to clear people out of the area as multiple police cars arrived on scene. City Paper was present as the vehicles arrived, and officers brought out canines to disperse the crowd. After the section of Wood Street between Liberty Avenue and Sixth Avenue was filled with police vehicles, people started to yell at the police, some claiming the police mistreated the teenage boy and others chanting “Black Lives Matter.”

Two boys standing near the Wood Street and Liberty Avenue crosswalk, were told to move farther away from the scene. One Port Authority officer clad in street clothes with his badge visible around his neck, called out to the two young men asking “do you want trouble?” and told them to back away. They were around 20 to 30 feet from the group of officers and vehicles.

One boy quickly backed away, but another in a yellow sweater stood his ground. At that moment a group of three Port Authority officers dashed at him and tackled him to the ground, and threatened to used tasers. And although one taser was held in the suspect's back, it was not discharged. The officers handcuffed the teenager and placed him in a squad car.

After this arrest, many officers forcefully whipped out their batons and told the crowd gathering on the sidewalks on the other side of the Liberty Avenue to back away further from the scene. Some hit their batons against metal mailboxes  and light posts as they screamed at the public to back away. Many officers yelled that if people did not disperse further — though many were already more than 100 feet from the scene — that “they would sic the dogs on them.”

A Pittsburgh Police officer, as seen in the video above, then approached a crowd of people on the sidewalk, including a CP reporter, with his baton extended yelling, "Make sure you get it all on your tape, big boy, with your telephone." While the officer in question told the group to back away, at least one citizen walked by him and towards the arrest scene. The officer then moved people down the street before turning to walk away and slammed his baton into a metal light pole.

Pittsburgh Police spokesperson Emily Schaffer said that the Port Authority Police responded to the incident and that Pittsburgh Police only arrived as back up and did not make any arrests.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Posted By on Wed, Dec 2, 2015 at 6:45 PM

Pittsburgh Police make arrest in shooting of Muslim cab driver; won't confirm hate crime investigation
Mugshot provided by the Pittsburgh Police
Anthony Mohamed
Pittsburgh Police have arrested a 26-year-old Hazelwood man in connection with a nonfatal shooting of a Muslim taxi driver six days ago.

Pittsburgh police Lt. Vic Joseph announced at a press conference this afternoon that Anthony Mohamed was taken into custody at his residence in Hazelwood at around 10:45 this morning. Mohamed has been charged with aggravated assault, criminal attempted homicide, and recklessly endangering another person.
click to enlarge Pittsburgh Police make arrest in shooting of Muslim cab driver; won't confirm hate crime investigation
Photo by Ashley Murray
Pittsburgh Police Lt. Vic Joseph addressed the media about the case Wednesday afternoon at police headquarters.

Joseph said just that a "short period of time" elapsed between when the police identified the suspect and obtained the arrest warrant. He said identifying the suspect was a result of the collaboration between the Pennsylvania State Police, Rivers Casino (where the suspect entered the taxi), the Cranberry Taxi Company, and a Hazelwood insurance company.

The lieutenant would not reveal whether the shooting will be investigated as a hate crime — he repeatedly told media he would not get into details, as an investigation is ongoing. Following the shooting, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has asked the Department of Justice to investigate the shooting as a "Post-Paris" hate crime, and they also contacted Pittsburgh Police and the FBI.

According to Allegheny County court records, an Anthony Lamar Mohamed, with the same birth date as the suspect police arrested, has criminal convictions dating back to 2008 when he was sentenced to five months imprisonment for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. He pled guilty in January 2011 to charges of criminal trespass, making terroristic threats, simple assault, theft, harassment and criminal trespass. He was sentenced to one year probation. In April 2011, he pled guilty to charges of defiant trespass, simple assault of a victim under 12 and endangering the welfare of children. He was given two years probation. Last year, Mohamed pled guilty to DUI and driving with a suspended or revoked license and sentenced to six months probation.

"I think we would like to commend the police for having investigated [the case] and using all the evidence they could gather," Safdar Khwaja, of CAIR's Pittsburgh chapter, told City Paper over the phone. "I think they need to continue to probe the bias motive they have to follow. That’s what we will be asking them to do."

Khwaja said he's concerned, however, that the suspect's last name could be an obstacle to a hate crime investigation.

"Of course the person they arrested, his last name sounds like he would be a Muslim. That is not necessarily true. The police still need to examine the hate motive of what took place in the taxi," he says.

According to details that the 38-year-old driver, who has not been identified, shared with the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the passenger began asking him about his ethnicity and talking about ISIS. The driver said he told the man that he is Moroccan and is an American. The driver said that when he reached the passenger's house, he asked the driver to wait while he retrieved his wallet but instead retrieved a rifle. A Department of Public Safety announcement, released on Nov. 26 but updated today, says that a bullet blew out  the rear window of the cab and struck the driver in the back.

click to enlarge Pittsburgh Police make arrest in shooting of Muslim cab driver; won't confirm hate crime investigation
Photo by Ashley Murray
According to Pittsburgh Police, the victim was driving driving outbound on Second Avenue in Hazelwood when he was struck in the back by a bullet as he drove between Flowers Avenue and Tecumseh Street.
Police spokesperson Sonya Toler wrote in an email to CP that  "the victim did not initially present to investigators the details he shared with the Post-Gazette."

Joseph would not reveal what the police learned about the suspect's statements to the taxi driver and that he could not "speak to what the victim may have told CAIR or anybody else."

The DOJ has not responded to multiple phone calls for comment, but Khwaja says that DOJ reached out to a number of local mosques and CAIR to offer "counseling and discussions." 

The FBI also says it's investigating. "We're reviewing the matter as we do all crimes that appear to be racially motivated, and we are working with city police," said FBI Pittsburgh's Supervisory Special Agent Gregory Heeb.

Earlier this week, the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh published a frustrated message on its homepage, calling the police's investigation "completely inappropriate and insufficient," citing a lack of communication from the city and police.

Mayor Peduto's office says that it's been in communication with the Pittsburgh's Muslim community during the investigation though, and "as recently as today" spoke with Islamic Center officials.

"The Mayor is a longtime supporter of the Islamic Center and of the Muslim community in Pittsburgh, has an office dedicated to outreach to both longtime and new members of the Pittsburgh community (called Welcoming Pittsburgh)," Tim McNulty, the mayor's spokesperson, wrote in an email. "And this commitment to the Muslim community has never wavered."

The Islamic Center did not respond to inquiries for elaboration. 

"It’s not going to be a prolonged investigation," Joseph told the media. "We're still going through evidence and once all is investigated, it will be concluded."

Chief Cameron McLay released a statement this evening that he and his staff met with the executive director of the Islamic Center, Wasiullah Mohamed.  Full text of the statement can be found below.

"Members of my staff and I met with the Executive Director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network this afternoon. I was able to provide them with an update on our investigation into the Thanksgiving Day shooting in Hazelwood, the timeline for Police Bureau investigative efforts, and some details about the arrest that was announced earlier today.

We debriefed the investigative process so both sides understood how the investigation unfolded, why that was necessary, and, most importantly, how the community perceived the unfortunate sequence of events. All agreed communication would have helped dispel misconceptions and we all have agreed to work together from this point forward.

The rest of our discussion was centered upon how we move forward to improve communication and trust between the police and our Islamic communities. There will be a joint press conference in the near future to outline our collective plan for collaborative partnership."

Editor's note: This report was updated at 8:20 p.m. to include Chief McLay's statement, sent to the media at 7:39 p.m.

City Paper Editor Charlie Deitch contributed to this report.


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