Bill creating Allegheny County independent police review board heading to council

PITTSBURGH — A divided Public Safety Committee debated the fate of a 9 person independent police review board in Allegheny County Wednesday.

“We’re turning into a circus and that’s the last thing any of us want,” said council member Sam DeMarco.

“We’ve waited far too long and it shouldn’t take the death of a community member at the hands of a police officer to encourage council or community members to support this,” said member Bethany Hallam.

Hallam has been one of the most outspoken members in favor of the review board, but she said the current bill heading before council has its flaws.

“The only police force that would be mandated under this bill to fall under the independent police review board would be the Allegheny County police,” she said.

Each of the other 109 municipal police departments in the county would have to opt in through their own leaders making the decision.

“I think it’s a terrible bill,” DeMarco said.

DeMarco was one of three people to vote against the bill moving forward and said the community has not been given a chance to weigh in on if they want this. Instead, he proposed equipping all area officers with body cameras. DeMarco said that video would tell the full story, not a review board with no actual authority.

“I’m not trying to overlook or forgive any inappropriate behavior on the actions of police officers, but if we had body cameras, we’d have that video,” he said.

The bill could head to the council for a vote as early as next Tuesday.

Fighting for police reform

Community members who want to see police reform told Channel 11 they also don’t agree with how this bill is going through the legislative process.

“We don’t see it as fulfilling the needs of our people completely,” said Khalid Raheem. “We need some agreement, some cooperation for how police departments conduct themselves so it’s not some wild west scenario.”

Despite the issues, the bill is seen as a step forward. The nine-person board would have four people appointed by the county executive, four people appointed by the city council and one person jointly appointed.

“I think that process needs to involve the people,” Raheem said.