Bill to increase police accountability passes Pittsburgh Council

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Pittsburgh City Council today passed legislation, more than a year and a half in the making, designed to increase police accountability and give the public a better view of police operations.

In final action, council approved a bill that requires the department to expand the scope of its annual report to the public.

From now on, the report must include the numbers of officers disciplined and sued each year; the number of traffic stops in each zone, broken down by race and gender; and information about police pursuits.

In addition, the department must track so-called "stop-and frisk" encounters with pedestrians. The data must be broken down by age, gender and race of those stopped, along with information about why they were stopped.

Tim Stevens, chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project, said the legislation ushers in a "new day" in police-community relations.

The bill was one of a handful that Councilman Ricky Burgess introduced following Jordan Miles' encounter with three undercover officers on a Homewood street in 2010.

Mr. Miles said the officers beat him without provocation. They officers said Mr. Miles ran when they ordered him to stop. They said they suspected he had a gun, though no weapon ever was found. The incident prompted calls in some neighborhoods for increased police accountability.

Mr. Burgess previously pushed through legislation requiring the city to put video cameras in patrol cars and to complete a police department accreditation process with all possible speed. But the bill expanding the department's annual report to the public, introduced in March 2010, drew resistance from the police department and union.

A compromise was hammered out in the past month.

Dropped from the bill was a section not related to the annual report. Prompted by a spate of lawsuits, it would have required the department to specify when officers may exercise their authority off-duty.

Joe Smydo: or 412-263-1518.


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