Council approves domestic violence law

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Pittsburgh City Council gave final approval today to long-debated legislation on domestic violence by police officers.

"There is a great deal of interest in this legislation. It is the right legislation. And it accomplishes the goals we set out to do in the beginning," said Council President Doug Shields. "You don't hit people. You be nice to people. And if you need help, go get help."

The unanimous vote was followed by sustained applause from an audience in Council Chamber that consisted mostly of advocates for women.

Approval came after two amendments to legislation tentatively approved on Wednesday. A provision that would compel the removal of the service weapon of any officer accused of, but not arrested for, domestic violence was removed, as was a requirement to provide all reports of abuse to the Citizen Police Review Board. Instead, a reference to existing laws on what information the review board should receive was inserted.

"It has been 167 days since we started this journey together," said Christine Stone of the National Council of Jewish Women, as a crowd of advocates gathered in front of Council Chamber prior to council's meeting. The ordinance "will go a long way toward explicitly acknowledging the seriousness of officer-involved domestic violence."

"We think there's too much discretion left in [the ordinance], but it's a good start," said Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizen Police Review Board.

She said her board will write to Public Safety Director Mike Huss asking to be told about all domestic violence allegations against officers so it can monitor compliance with the ordinance.

Prior to the vote, Fraternal Order of Police President James Malloy called the effort "a witch hunt against police officers," saying a tiny fraction of protection-from-abuse orders are against police.

"There is no way in the world that any of you can ignore this crowd behind me," he added, standing with his back to the crowd of advocates.

The legislation was prompted by the June 18 promotion of four police officers, three of whom faced accusations of domestic violence in their pasts.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl later made the legislation law at a signing ceremony in his office. He said the women's advocates surrounding him "were frustrated, angry and upset, and I think rightfully so" at the June 18 promotions. "It is my honor now to sign into law the policy that so many in this room worked so hard to achieve."

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


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