Allegheny County Police Association opposes countywide review board

September 8, 2018

A group of around 500 protesters confront Pittsburgh Police by kneeling and raising their hands chanting ‘Hands Up,’ on Pittsburgh’s South Side, Saturday, June 23, 2018, to protest East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld’s fatal shooting of 17-year-old Antwon Rose.

The Allegheny County Police Association is opposing a proposal to establish a countywide citizens’ police review board.

“We have the Allegheny County district attorney, we have our internal policies, we have our command staff, we have cameras and microphones in our cars, we have an internal complaint process, an external complaint process,” Benjamin Thornton, president of the association, told the county council Tuesday. “All this is widely publicized. You can stop in and speak to any supervisor and initiate a complaint to allege wrongdoing. For all these reasons, my organization is opposed to the formation of a civilian review board, especially when it affects such a small portion of the county and that would be the Allegheny County police department.”

The county’s police association has about 220 members, according to Thornton.

County police patrol the airports and county parks, and county detectives investigate homicides outside the City of Pittsburgh.

“I am not surprised by it nor am I dismayed by it,“said Councilman DeWitt Walton, D-Hill District, of the opposition. “I believe the effort (to create the board) has broader support than detractors and will move forward.”

Council voted last month to take the first step toward creating a countywide citizens’ police review board in the wake of the June 19 fatal shooting of unarmed teen Antwon Rose by East Pittsburgh Officer Michael Rosfeld.

Walton and Paul Klein, D-Point Breeze, are holding meetings to get public input on the idea.

If county council creates the board, the elected bodies of the municipalities that govern all the police departments would have to individually vote to be overseen by the board, Walton has said.

The Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board oversees the city police, but no such body exists for county police or the other nearly 120 police departments within the county.

Public meetings to gain input on the idea are scheduled for: Aug. 29 at the Hill House Association; Aug. 30 at the Millvale Community Center; Sept. 20 in Duquesne and Sept. 26 in McKees Rocks, Walton said. All meetings are open to all county residents and will run from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Council plans to consider whether to create the board no later than Oct. 23.

This story has been updated with a new date for the second September meeting.

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