East Pittsburgh considers dissolving police force after Antwon Rose shooting

September 8, 2018
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Residents attend an East Pittsburgh council meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. Officials say they are considering dissolving the small borough’s police force.

East Pittsburgh officials are considering dissolving the borough’s police force after one of its officers fatally shot an unarmed teen in June, Council President Dennis Simon said.

The borough has not decided which department would take over police services, Simon said. Options include the Allegheny County police or the police department of a neighboring municipality, Simon said. He declined to disclose which municipalities borough officials have contacted.

“We met with the other communities, we gave them our ... budget numbers and how much we can afford and how many police we need, things like that,” Simon said. “They’re going over those numbers as we speak.”

Council hopes to vote on the matter at its public meeting next month, Simon said.

Even if there is not a vote, the council will share what communities it is considering to provide police services at next month’s meeting, Simon said.

Simon said options of a merger, a takeover or a consolidation are all on the table right now.

He said the borough has been considering dissolving the police force for years.

About 20 citizens attended an East Pittsburgh borough council meeting Tuesday.

Erica Yesko, an East Pittsburgh resident, said she thought the meeting was a step in the right direction.

“We don’t want any more children being killed by police officers,” she told the council. “We want you to listen to us.”

Simon responded: “I agree. I think we listen more than you think, but we’re going to listen even more now.”

More than 50 people attended a tense meeting last month -- the first since the June 19 shooting death of 17-year-old Antwon Rose in East Pittsburgh. Many at that meeting demanded the borough fire Officer Michael Rosfeld. The officer faces criminal charges in Rose’s death.

Many also called for the resignations of the mayor and five council members and urged the borough to adopt proper police policies.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala said in June the borough did not have police policies. Mayor Louis Payne said last month the borough had policies, but they’re not updated as they should be.

The council’s Tuesday agenda said Zappala has scheduled a meeting Saturday with police departments in the county.

“He wants the municipalities to verify they are using the most up-to-date policies,” the agenda said.

The East Pittsburgh Police Department is comprised of Chief Lori Payne, the mayor’s daughter, and eight officers, according to the borough website.

Rosfeld remains with the force on unpaid leave, Simon said.

The East Pittsburgh council will not be the body to decide whether Rosfeld will be fired, Simon said Tuesday.

Payne last month told the Trib that decision will be left up to lawyers and solicitors after Rosfeld’s case plays out in court. He is scheduled to appear for an arraignment Wednesday in Downtown Pittsburgh.

County police have provided police services for the nearby borough of Wilmerding under a contract signed in 2016. That small municipality at the time agreed to pay the county $250,000 the first year and increases of 3 percent the following years plus a portion of fines and fees.

The next borough council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 18, according to its website.

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