On Friday, a press release was posted regarding the City’s review of allegations of police misconduct at this year’s Pittsburgh Pride. The release is linked and I encourage you to read it. Today I want to comment on two aspects of the overall story, and may have further comments at another time.

The statement prepared by City Solicitor, Lourdes Sanchez-Ridge states that the City utilized an outside, third party review in addition to the OMI investigation, and that this practice of using a third party review will become standard procedure in cases of alleged excessive force.

While OMI exonerated the officer in this case, it also obtained an independent third-party use of force review by an outside agency that arrived at the same conclusion. It will be city policy from this point forward to seek third-party analysis in all excessive force investigations, just as we did in this case.

I’m pleased to see this development, as well as the way it is articulated here. Since  Mayor Peduto took office he has been re-arranging elements of the city government to allow for greater objectivity and accountability such as moving OMI out of Public Safety and under the Law Department. Adding the use of an independent review helps towards rebuilding a trust relationship with City residents which has been so damaged in the past. Rebuilding relationships with various communities across the City is a long term project, but I see this as a thoughtful step forward towards that end.

From my perspective there are three different specific aspects to what gets lumped together as a police incident at Pittsburgh Pride. One, is the specific actions of a specific officer, and the question of if that officer used excessive force. We know where the City stands on this one. But there are two other aspects that cry out for further dialogue in my opinion.

Second is the issue of how this incident came about. Sanchez-Ridge’s statement assures us that the City will review to see what more can be learned from what happened and what practices can be altered based on these lessons learned. The other part of the equation is the Delta Foundation and Pittsburgh Pride. They experienced tremendous difficulty getting the needed officers, and they blamed the events on a lack of training (diversity training?) for Pittsburgh Police. But questions remain as to who was responsible for allowing a pressure cooker of tension to develop in the first place. I hope we see more articulation come from the Delta Foundation as to how they will arrange PrideFest and what steps they will take to help eliminate these types of problems in the future. Safety has always been a primary concern for the Delta Foundation, and I believe they made extra efforts towards safety this year. But is enough done to create a safe environment- and safe for everyone including those exercising their constitutional right to free speech. I don’t have any answers to that, and I hope this is something Delta is actively working on.

Third, is the issue of the now widely viewed videotape, which is extremely hard to watch. I believe it is challenging, even for people familiar with police action, it is troubling. One video, or one photo doesn’t- nor can it-  provide the full picture or enough perspective to allow the viewers to formulate a meaningful opinion about what happened. Yet it is what the general public has to use in trying to understand what happened. And, I worry that because trust doesn’t necessarily exist, that the general public hasn’t been provided enough to help it understand what happened.

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