City controller, Pittsburgh citizen police review board release inaugural joint police bureau audit

PITTSBURGH — It’s nearly 100 pages, but this document lays out 23 recommendations from the city controller’s office and the citizen police review board.

“It’s critical, it’s thought provoking some might say controversial,” said Michael Lamb, the city controller.

In simple terms, this performance audit is a way for the Bureau of Police to improve.

“These numbers show how much work we have ahead of us if we want to achieve equity,” said Beth Pittinger, executive director of the citizen police review board.

Pittinger is talking about a specific number: 65.3%. The data from 2020 arrests in the city show that 65.3% arrests are of Black people, out of nearly 8000.

“Despite marijuana possession being decriminalized in the city since 2016 Black residents still made-up 85 percent of those charged with the more serious state offense as opposed to the city citation option offered under the city ordinance,” Lamb said.

Diving deeper into the 139 people charged solely on a marijuana charge, Pittinger said 90% were Black.

“That can’t be right that shows a need for change that shows an inequity,” Pittinger said.

This is just one of 23 recommendations for change from the city controller’s office and citizen police review board to the Department of Public Safety.

So how do you improve when it comes to a policy that leaves the charge up to the discretion of the officer?

“It’s a matter of not allowing so much discretion giving them proper protocol and policy around this situation as to when to specifically charge the lesser city offense and the more strict state offense,” Lamb said.

The document also dives into a need for community policing tactics, upgraded technology and more thorough checks on social media when it comes to officer connections to hate groups.

“We know there have been incidents in the bureau and that has been brought to light and there has not been or an unsure response, so we want that tighten that policy tighten that protocol,” Lamb said.

The report was given to the Bureau of Police, who agreed upon all the recommendations except one. That one exception would allow body camera footage to be given to an outside agency. The Bureau of Police said that decision would jeopardize investigations.

Channel 11 reached out to Public Safety for comment. A spokesperson said the Bureau of Police looks forward to working with stakeholders to address the findings.