Local faith leaders deliver call for police reform to Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto

Local faith leaders deliver call for police reform to Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto

PITTSBURGH — After a news conference at Freedom Corner Monday morning, concerned religious leaders from different denominations from all over the county made their way to Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s office.

“He received our letter that we presented to him, came up with some suggestions some things that they’re working on,” said Rev. Dr. Richard Wingfield of the Unity Baptist Church

They’re asking that the Pittsburgh Police Department’s budget be reallocated to six facets of the community, including public safety and potentially including a clergy person to be with first responders, Plus, a county police review board. Also, education, transportation, housing, mental health, and recreation.

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“He did acknowledge the fact that this is systemic it goes back many years. He also acknowledged that there are people who are going to work together toward the accomplishment of the goals to make this the most livable city,” Wingfield said.

Channel 11 talked to Peduto too, who took their demands seriously.

“They’ve put together a list of critical issues that affect the black community in Pittsburgh. Not just brick and mortar, but people who live in the neighborhoods themselves, and we look forward to working with them,” Peduto said.

We also got a response from Pittsburgh Public Safety:

Pittsburgh Public Safety and Pittsburgh Police embrace this opportunity to evolve, and that absolutely means listening to and working with the communities we serve to create pathways towards healthier and safer relationships.

The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police is not afraid of change. There is always room for improvement. We learned that as one of six departments to participate in the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice under President Barack Obama to repair relationships between communities and police. As a result of that participation, PBP launched outreach programs, to include Group Violence Intervention, the Multicultural Liaison Unit and the Civil Affairs Team; increased transparency by committing to body-worn cameras for every officer, sharing data and crime stats online and placing all policies online; increased mandatory training programs that focus on de-escalation and implicit bias training; and enacted numerous other reforms.

We have every intention of continuing to evolve to meet the needs of the people we serve.

“As discussions about policework in America move forward, we welcome feedback and guidance,” Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said. “We support many of the suggested reforms, including health experts helping officers who deal with non-traditional issues that are now part of everyday modern policing, such as drug addiction, mental health issues and homelessness. We want to make sure that those who need help get it, and in the most constructive and healing way possible.”

Police Chief Scott Schubert added: “Over the past several weeks, the world has called for change. We hear that call. No one should fear for their lives when they interact with an officer—but many do. We need to recognize this truth, address it and end it. We are a work in progress, but that does not negate the progress we have already made. I credit that progress to the rank and file, all of whom place community safety above all else, and continue to save lives day in and day out. And I credit that progress to the public, who has helped guide us during our recent years of transformation and reform. We’re going to need both sides to come together as we continue this change, and I look forward to the work ahead.”

And with open minds from all parts of our community, Peduto thinks it’s possible.

“I think they’re all doable. I think it will require the faith-based community working together with the corporate community, organized labor, institutions, nonprofits, philanthropic to make the change happened,” Peduto said.

The clergy members tell me they will continue to meet and discuss this movement again in the near future.

What could police reform look like in Pittsburgh?