City police statistics produce clearer look at crime, citations

Most victims were killed in retaliation

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More people were killed citywide on Saturdays and Sundays last year than on any other day of the week, most often early in the morning and most commonly by gunfire.

Most were killed in retaliation, during robberies or over drugs, while just three of the city's 57 homicide victims were unintended targets. Most of those slain -- 42 -- had prior gun, drug and other charges, while 33 of the 39 accused killers had criminal pasts.

These statistics are just some of what can be found in the Pittsburgh police bureau's 2010 annual report, which was released Tuesday and offers considerably more information than in years past. With data on traffic stops, officer discipline, manpower breakdowns and use-of-force incidents, the expanded report provides a glimpse into the demands of city police work as well as the crimes that trouble each neighborhood. Along with city-wide crime statistics -- both property and violent crime declined in 2010 -- the report gives a breakdown of offenses that occurred within each neighborhood, from rape and robbery to prostitution and vandalism.

"This is wonderful," said Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizen Police Review Board. "It gives an opportunity for the general public to evaluate the police officers and gives a perspective of how busy the police bureau really is."

The review board and a group of community activists had been pressing the city to provide such information, although it was unclear if the expanded report was a result of their efforts. Councilman Ricky Burgess in February proposed sweeping legislation meant to bring more accountability to police work, which included a plan for the city to provide a more detailed report.

"I trust that you will find the information ... useful, informative and with greater transparency" than what was provided in years past, police Chief Nate Harper wrote in the report's opening message. The chief's executive assistant, John Warren, who compiled the data, said the chief had long wanted to expand the report to "open up the bureau to more transparency to the public." Chief Harper, he said, "considered everyone's input."

The report for the first time has data on traffic stops, including how many took place in each of the city's six police zones, by which types of officers and why they were initiated. In 69 percent of the 27,972 traffic stops city officers conducted last year, the driver was a man. More than 61 percent of the drivers were white, while 33.6 percent were African-American. Officers wrote citations in more than half of the stops, issued warnings in 38 percent of them and made arrests in 6 percent of the stops.

Community groups had also sought information about discipline taken against officers, which the report provides in some detail. The bureau took disciplinary action 60 times last year against 51 officers, mostly for problems operating a police vehicle, including seat belt use.

In 11 of the cases, officers were disciplined for problems with performance on duty; in nine of the cases, their "conduct" earned punishment; in four of the cases, officers were disciplined for issues with truthfulness, and appearance was a problem in two of the cases. Most of the time, officers received written reprimands, though at least two received five-day suspensions, pending termination.

Other data offer insight into the rigors of the job. For example, 10 percent of the nearly 900 officers on the force last year reported injuries, most often hand injuries or cuts and abrasions.

The review board had hoped the report would contain information about the number of lawsuits against city police and the cost to the city, which it does not, but Ms. Pittinger called it "a step in the right direction" nevertheless.

Neighborhood leaders, who have long relied on crime data for planning and organizing, said the statistics for each neighborhood can be enlightening.

"It allows us to engage in thoughtful consideration of long-range plans," including housing and business development, said Jim Richter, executive director of Hazelwood Initiative. "It helps us understand."


Sadie Gurman: sgurman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878.


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