Amendments on police domestic violence rules proposed
Share with others:
Pittsburgh Councilman William Peduto today proposed amendments to legislation designed to set rules for handling accusations of domestic violence against city police.
The most strenuous of Mr. Peduto's desired changes to legislation by Council President Doug Shields would force officers who are subjects of criminal domestic violence investigations or protection from abuse orders to "surrender all firearms, including their primary service weapon, immediately" according to the text of the amendments, delivered to other council members this morning.
The Fraternal Order of Police has argued that such a measure would be tantamount to taking away an officer's livelihood based on a mere accusation, since police can't work if they can't carry guns, and emergency PFAs are routinely granted with a low burden of proof.
Mr. Peduto said the removal of all guns from officers accused of family abuse is considered standard practice by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the U.S. Military. The alternative, he argued, is risking tragedy. "By allowing an officer to continue to carry a weapon, the city could become liable if anything should happen," he said.
The amendments would also compel the Police Bureau to refer all allegations of domestic violence by officers to the independent Citizen Police Review Board. They are currently handled by the bureau and by the Office of Municipal Investigations, which reports to Public Safety Director Mike Huss.
Mr. Peduto would also bar the hiring or promotion of anyone subject to a PFA or criminal domestic violence investigation.
"We need to go beyond the soundbite of having a zero tolerance policy [toward employee domestic violence] and put together the best policy to protect victims," Mr. Peduto said.
Mr. Shields' legislation already reiterates federal law barring officers convicted of domestic violence crimes from possessing firearms, meaning they would be fired. If an officer was the subject of a protection-from-abuse petition or order, police leadership would review his or her duty assignment and employment.
Enhanced background checks of officer candidates would be required, as would interview questions aimed at eliciting information about any past domestic violence. Any candidate "with a history of perpetuating violence" would not be hired, and the bureau would "strongly consider" not hiring candidates with "tendencies indicative of abusive behavior," according to the proposed ordinance.
A tentative vote originally scheduled for tomorrow may be postponed until Oct. 31, to give council time to consider the amendments, Mr. Peduto said.
Police Chief Nate Harper last week said the bureau and the city's Office of Municipal Investigations are now conducting separate, thorough investigations of all allegations of family abuse by officers. An internal Domestic Violence Review Board meets quarterly to discuss all such accusations.
No one subject to an active protection-from-abuse order can now be hired or promoted, he said. Expired PFAs aren't a bar to joining the force or moving up, but they are considered.
The issue of domestic violence was brought to the fore by the June 18 promotions of three police officers with histories of domestic abuse allegations.The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has found that 35 city officers have been the subjects of protection orders, and some have been allowed to carry firearms while on duty.
First Published October 23, 2007 9:02 am