Allegheny County Council votes to approve an independent police review board

PITTSBURGH — After years of debate, the Allegheny County Council voted 9 to 5 to establish an independent police review board.

According to county leaders, they know the bill is not perfect, but council members believe the legislation is a necessary step in the right direction.

“We need this. We cannot do this any longer,” said Dewitt Walton, Member, Allegheny County Council.

Mr. Walton was brought to tears, sharing his personal experience being racially profiled by police officers when he was a young man.

“If it happened to me, it happens to too many,” said Walton. Council and community members shared their own experiences and examples of police brutality around the nation as a cry for change.

“One of the things I ask white people is, ‘What would you rather be in the moment when you’re stopped by police? White or Black,’” said Tim Stevens, Black Political Empowerment Project.

“Black people are dying. We’re getting killed.”

Opponents of the bill say the legislation is an assault on law enforcement and violates due process.

“How much more do you want to put our men and women in blue under the gun,” said Craig Airasinco, Western Pennsylvania Mayor-Council Association.

The review board will only oversee the Allegheny County Police Department and not any of the municipal departments within the county.

For more on Amy’s story and reaction from additional council members, watch the video at the top of the story.

UPDATE: The Allegheny County Council has voted to approve a independent police review board.

Allegheny County Executive, Rich Fitzgerald, released this statement on social media this evening, following the council’s vote.

Allegheny County Council is set to finalize legislation to approve an independent police review board.

There is very mixed and heated reaction to this proposed independent police review board in Allegheny County. Some council members believe the board is essential. Others say it’s frustrating and the legislation has holes.

Allegheny County Council was supposed to be voting Tuesday night on whether to create on or not, but instead went back and forth about pushing back the vote until after a public hearing. Some council members say public feedback is necessary. Public comment isn’t scheduled until Wednesday.

During a meeting last week, Councilwoman Liv Bennett, who co-sponsored the bill, dismissed such concerns. She said multiple public meetings have already been held.

Some council members say the process hasn’t been transparent and violates union contracts.

“How much more do you want to put the men and women in blue under the gun? And then to add insult to injury, my understanding, some on this council want to put a convicted felon on this review board,” said Craig Airacinco of the Western Pa. Mayor-Council Association.

Those in support say it’s time to stop stalling and pass this review board.

“It is a beginning. You can always work on it, but give the citizens of all co and opportunity to have an opportunity to share their grievances,” Tim Stevens, CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project, said.

Last week the county’s public safety committee was divided. It voted 4-3 to recommend the review board go to a vote in county council.

The legislation would create a nine-member board will be created to review alleged misconduct by officers in the Allegheny County Police Department only.

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Other municipal police departments in the county would have to be opted into the review board by their own leaders.