Mayor, other officials meet with women about police abuse ordinance

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Advocates for women left a three-hour meeting with Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and public safety bosses yesterday without a promise to support legislation on police domestic violence.

Some, though, praised the Police Bureau's effort to craft policies on allegations of family abuse by officers. Police Chief Nate Harper has proposed more strenuous review of such accusations and their consideration in hiring and promotion decisions.

"The majority of us were impressed with the amount of work and time and effort that had been put into the development of their policy documents," said Heather Arnet, executive director of the Women and Girls Foundation. With or without a detailed ordinance, she said, "we're about to see improved policy being implemented."

Mr. Ravenstahl, who attended about half of the meeting with some dozen representatives of women's organizations, said he wants to "slow down" a City Council bill due for a tentative vote tomorrow.

"We should look at a comprehensive approach," he said. "We're almost there."

Police brass argued at the meeting that an internal policy would be better than an ordinance. They feared that commanders who accidentally violated an ordinance could be subject to criminal charges.

The proposed ordinance by council President Doug Shields would require extensive background checks of new hires and bar the hiring of recruits with "tendencies indicative of abusive behavior." An officer subject to a protection-from-abuse order could be reassigned or fired.

Amendments proposed by Councilman William Peduto would force officers subject to PFAs to turn over their service weapons.

The ordinance is scheduled for a tentative vote tomorrow and a final vote Monday -- the day before mayoral and council elections.

Any delay would push the final vote off until after the election, noted Jeanne Clark, of the National Organization for Women.

"We've been waiting for these policies since June, and they only happened because an ordinance was in the offing," she said. In June, the city promoted three officers who have been the subjects of domestic abuse allegations.


Rich Lord can be reached at rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542.


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