Pittsburgh’s District 6 Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle discusses police reform.
Photo of City Council Chamber by Ashlee Green
In the last edition of the Northside Chronicle, I highlighted legislative efforts by my office that declared racism a public health crisis in the City of Pittsburgh, as well as a bill that established the COVID-19 Racial Equity Task Force, aimed at addressing the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on the city’s African American citizens. National events since then have only served to further highlight the pervasiveness of racism in our social and political institutions.
It is a fact that African Americans are two-and-a-half times more likely to be killed by a police officer than white people. We must reform policing practices and policies which far too often result in the deaths of unarmed African Americans. The best way to improve public safety is not just additional police officers but rather by increasing the community’s confidence in the police. To that end, together with Councilman Burgess, we introduced four pieces of legislation aimed at reforming the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. They include:
- Establishing a Hiring Freeze in the Bureau of Police: This legislation will defund the Police Recruit and First-Year Police Officer line items in the Bureau’s 2020 Budget.
- Requiring the Demilitarization of the Police: This legislation bans the purchase of surplus U.S. military equipment and weapons by the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.
- Establishing a Duty to Intervene: This legislation requires ALL police officers to step in and stop other police officers from using illegal or unnecessary force or any other violation of a person’s constitutional right. It also requires those officers to immediately report the incident to whoever in the chain of command it is necessary to report.
- Establishing STOP THE VIOLENCE Fund: This legislation requires the city to dedicate dollars, equal to 10% of the Police Budget, annually for funding evidence-based violence prevention social service programs.
During these times, it is critically important that we not only acknowledge the voices of those marching in the streets but also provide a legislative platform for them to directly engage in the governance and policing of our city. The idea that more policing can solve a broad range of community problems is misguided. What our communities need, particularly communities of color, is more direct investment in things like affordable housing, better education, counseling for trauma and addiction, youth development, workforce development, and public transit.
We cannot ignore the outcry, both here in Pittsburgh and around the country about the unjust deaths of unarmed African Americans like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. We must implement fundamental police reforms and significantly fund evidence-based violence reduction and social service programs. It is time to have an open and inclusive conversation about the future of policing in this country and here in Pittsburgh. These first four pieces of legislation will begin that essential conversation.
R. Daniel Lavelle – Councilman, District 6