Group delivers list of demands for police accountability in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County

PITTSBURGH — A local group delivered a list of demands for police accountability to the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County officials on Monday.

“I’m going to come to the City-County building and walk up on them and tell them that they’re going to make impactful and tangible change in my community,” said Brittani Murray, one of the activists.

The group Black Activist and Organizer Collective said it’s not satisfied with Mayor Peduto’s plan for police reform in the city. Its list of demands is in response to Peduto’s support for the ‘8 Can’t Wait’ campaign, which he announced earlier this month. The campaign is aimed at decreasing police brutality through eight different measures, which are:

  1. Banning chokeholds and strangleholds
  2. Requiring officers to de-escalate situations, where possible
  3. Requiring officers to give a warning before shooting
  4. Requiring officers to exhaust all other alternatives before shooting
  5. Requiring officers to intervene and stop excessive force used by other officers and report these incidents immediately to a supervisor
  6. Banning shooting at moving vehicles
  7. Establishing a force continuum that restricts the most severe types of force to the most extreme situations and creates clear policy restrictions on the use of each police weapon and tactic.
  8. Requiring comprehensive reporting on an officer’s use of force

In a news release, the Black Activist and Organizer Collective said the ‘8 Can’t Wait’ recommendations are not comprehensive enough to make the substantial changes that are needed to solve the large systematic problems in our country.

“We have been asking the mayor and county executive for years for support for engagement and investment so that is why we are here today,” said Miracle Jones, one of the activists.

The group points to the de-escalation recommendation, which is a policy already used in Pittsburgh and other police departments. The group said Allegheny County has a history of police brutality which is still present today.

Here’s the group’s full list of demands:

  • Defund the police, fund Black communities
  • Demilitarize the police
  • End the criminalization of Black people
  • Remove all police from schools
  • Make all collective bargaining with police public
  • Terminate Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police President Robert Swartzwelder (a city police officer)
  • Disband all private police departments
  • End “no knock” warrants
  • Cease partnership with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)
  • End cash bail
  • Release all vulnerable individuals from jail
  • Create an independent, fully funded civilian review board

“We’re in a place that claims to be led by progressive individuals. Why is this not happening right now? We don’t have until October until November or December to wait to figure it out,” said Brandi Fisher.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s office released a statement in response to the groups demands:

“We have and will continue to invest in black communities. The County Executive has also made clear his support for the end of cash bail. Even prior to COVID-19, he has championed the need to reduce the population at the jail and has been supportive of the efforts of the Judicial branch in doing so during this pandemic. He is proud of the work of the Public Defender’s Office which has assisted in the review of vulnerable populations at the jail for potential release and filed corresponding motions with the Court. He has also long been on record as supporting a Citizen Review Board but recognizes that it will take state action to expand its reach beyond just the county police. The legislation failed last year in County Council and although re-introduced in January, it has not been brought up by the Chair for consideration in Council’s Public Safety Committee yet. Unfortunately, an effort to pull that bill from committee and allow for its consideration by the full Council failed this past week.

While we will certainly review the list to determine if there are any items that we should consider, at first glance, many of these items are not ones to which the county can respond as they are under the purview of the State Legislature, pertain to specific agencies other than the county, or do not apply to the county or county police.”

—  Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald's Office

The Black Activist and Organizer Collective includes the following groups and individuals:

  • Alliance for Police Accountability (APA)
  • 1Hood Media
  • Take Action Mon Valley (TAMV)
  • Young Black Motivated Kings & Queens (YBMKQ)
  • Radical Youth Collective
  • OKRA Ethics
  • Blaqops
  • Mary’s Daughter of the Formerly Incarcerated
  • Pittsburgh Union of Regional Renters (PURR)
  • Dignity Act of PA
  • Allegheny County Council Member Olivia Bennett
  • PA State Representative Summer Lee