Pittsburgh councilman proposes gunshot detection system

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Over the past two years, Pittsburgh Councilman Ricky Burgess has proposed a series of changes in public safety -- video cameras in police cars, training for answering domestic dispute calls, among others. His next objectives: publishing police procedures and installing a gunshot detection system in his district as a demonstration project.

Mr. Burgess introduced bills Tuesday to require the police bureau to annually publish police procedures and to spend $150,000 to install a ShotSpotter system in his East End council district.

Mr. Burgess said cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle and Louisville, Ky., routinely publish their policies, which he believes gives the public a better understanding when they see officers at a crime scene. State right-to-know laws don't apply to police policies, but Mr. Burgess said the bureau could choose to publish its procedures.

In an email, police Chief Nate Harper said he would be against publishing procedures.

"To publish these Policies for the sake of transparency would place our officers in risk of harm and can jeopardize officer safety," he said.

A companion bill would have a ShotSpotter system installed in most neighborhoods in Mr. Burgess' district except part of Garfield and North Point Breeze. The audio-based system is designed to hear gunfire and notify police instantly with the number of shots fired and the caliber of the bullet fired.

Mr. Burgess said he sees ShotSpotter as a demonstration project that could be expanded to other trouble spots in the city if it is successful. After it is installed, it would cost the city $120,000 a year.

His goal eventually is to install cameras throughout the city, but that would be too expensive right now because the proper infrastructure isn't in place, he said.

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Ed Blazina: eblazina@post-gazette.com


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