Pittsburgh police brass, union leaders and an instructor at the bureau's training academy plan to work together to determine whether they are using effective ammunition or whether they should adjust their gun training.
Assistant Chief of Operations Maurita Bryant said at a Friday afternoon news conference that members of the uniform and public safety committee, as well as some SWAT team members, told her they were concerned about the effectiveness of the Federal 180 gr.HST cartridge that they have been using since 2008.
The bureau began using the cartridge after an FBI ballistics expert from Quantico, Va., recommended it following a comparison study. Police officials said the Philadelphia police department uses the same cartridge.
Police said they intend to send their current ammunition back to the manufacturer for testing and to ask the FBI to conduct another review. Acting police Chief Regina McDonald said the city will pay any bills that arise from the testing and that police do not yet have an estimate for how much it will cost.
Officers said they became especially concerned when it took multiple gunshots to subdue Dante A. Bonner, 19, of Homewood, after he shot Officer Christopher Kertis during an incident in East Liberty last month. Many of them reiterated those concerns this week after police said James R. Hill, a 24-year-old fugitive who grew up in Homewood, fired at officers even after he was struck by return fire from police.
"Any time that our officers fired at an individual and that individual was able to return fire ... the officers are concerned with 'Why, why as soon as that shot hit didn't that actor go down right away,' " Chief Bryant said. "There's a lot of factors that go into that."
Sgt. John Lubawski, who works at the bureau's training academy, said a number of factors contribute to how many shots it takes to subdue a violent suspect -- including the power of the ammunition and where the bullet hits.
"There is no bullet out there that can cause an actor to immediately cease fire unless you hit them in a very small area in the central nervous system," he said. That becomes incredibly difficult, he said, when the target is moving.
When choosing their ammunition, officers seek to find bullets that provide enough power to accomplish the job but not so much that they become excessively powerful.
"You have to bridge the gap between rifle power and pistol concealability," Detective William Friburger said after the news conference.
Officer Eric Engelhardt, chairman of the police union's Officer Safety Committee, said he has been pleased by the bureau's willingness to evaluate the matter.
"This is fact-finding," he said. "This is the FOP and the city coming together."
Liz Navratil: email@example.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil.