Saturday, April 23, 2005

Mayoral hopefuls debate police review board - Anybody But Bob comes between the lines

This issue was a big issue four years ago. It has not gone away.
Mayoral hopefuls debate police review board 'If you have a mayor who coddles the police, they're going to continue to run amok. Bob O'Connor's in bed with the [Fraternal Order of Police] -- he's not going to challenge the FOP,' Kendrick said.

James Carmine and I were both in strong agreement with the Citizens Police Review Board in 2001. Meanwhile, the front-running Dems were not.

In 2005, Bob O'C has not chaged his tune. Now Bob is the only one still out of touch on this important issue.

But, as a small note, where is the City Council member to the Citzen Police Review Board? A seat designated for appointment by that body has been empty for a year. So, what's up with that?

Peduto pushed for the Citizens Police Review Board at the start -- but what about the follow-up? I worry and wonder.

Continual execution of the plan and continual outrage of its stumbles are needed from council's members -- and other leaders who might like to one day be mayor.

We don't need Bob to build new bridges here and there as much as we need hi to walk all around the pavement that is already in place. We don't need new bridges. We just need the right people to be forced to show up -- or go work elsewhere.

And I don't take too much comfort in the answer from Bob about how he'll "follow the law." If a lawyer told me to do xomething -- then that's what I'll do. Yeah, right. The lawyers you pay often have a way of giving you the answers you want to hear. Mayor's have a good pool of lawyers to leverage on their behalf.

The citizens voted to enable the citizens police review board. The citizens want it still. The review board has never worked well. The city has an opportunity to recraft energy for the board and get it rolling.

In two or three years, then we can look to retool the CPRB, if needed. Let's get it moving as it should in 2006.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mayoral hopefuls debate police review board

Friday, April 22, 2005
By Timothy McNulty, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bob O'Connor's opponents in the Democratic primary for Pittsburgh mayor went after him last night on police oversight and other matters.

At a forum hosted by the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania, the candidates were asked if they would compel police officers to testify before Pittsburgh's Citizen Police Review Board about alleged police misconduct.

Mayor Tom Murphy does not require officers to testify and the board, which was created by citywide referendum in 1997, has been largely powerless.

O'Connor's first response to the question was vague, with him saying he would "build bridges" between police and the community. O'Connor also promised to hire more black police officers -- though they are chosen by civil service rules that do not make race a hiring factor.

Another candidate, Michael Lamb, Allegheny County's prothonotary and a lawyer who has worked on police misconduct cases, said he would try to compel officers to testify. He then turned to O'Connor.

"Bob, you've yet to answer this question -- it's been asked to you a number of times at these forums and you still haven't answered the question," Lamb said.

O'Connor then said he would "bring people together" and make sure the board is "diverse" and "professional."

Finally he said "if you ask about testifying, I've been told -- and I've had a lawyer tell me -- that it is illegal to have an officer testify in front of the board. I'm not here to debate that issue. Whatever the law is, I will follow."

The review board sued Murphy in 2000 to force him to compel police testimony at the hearings, by granting officers immunity. An Allegheny County Common Pleas Court judge rejected the board's lawsuit.

Review board officials, however, contend the mayor has the authority to direct police to cooperate.

Candidate Louis "Hop" Kendrick, former Allegheny County disadvantaged business coordinator, said the mayor is the only civilian citywide with the power to effectively oversee police officers.

"If you have a mayor who coddles the police, they're going to continue to run amok. Bob O'Connor's in bed with the [Fraternal Order of Police] -- he's not going to challenge the FOP," Kendrick said.

Candidate William Peduto, a city councilman, noted that O'Connor, a former councilman, voted against creating the seven-member review board in 1996, while Peduto, as an aide to then-Councilman Dan Cohen, gathered signatures to put the review board referendum on the spring 1997 ballot.

Peduto said he would compel officers to testify as mayor.

Another candidate, Squirrel Hill businessman Les Ludwig, also promised to "stand up to police" if elected mayor.

(Tim McNulty can be reached at or 412-263-1542.)