With the Pittsburgh’s Citizen Police Review Board engaged in two prominent inquiries into possible police abuse, some are questioning Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s call for the appointment of new board members.
The action came June 11 as current board members were in Allegheny Common Pleas Court again seeking documents pertaining to police action during the G-20 Summit protests.
Tim Stevens, director of the Black Political Empowerment Project, said the mayor’s timing is suspect with the board looking at G-20 and the beating of CAPA student Jordan Miles by three police officers in January.
“At a minimum, there’s an appearance of impropriety with this happening while two major CPRB cases are going on,” he said.
The mayor’s office said the action came because the terms of all seven board member had expired, and had nothing to do with quashing any investigations.
In the case of a vacancy, council and the mayor submit nominees to fill the seat and they are then voted on. These, however, are not vacancies. The board members continue to serve, and as board Executive Director Elizabeth Pittinger noted, while listening to council members submit nominees June 22, there is no provision in the City Code for addressing term expirations on any board or commission.
“So there is nothing to trigger this action,” she said. “This is an invalid process. So does this mean we’ll have two boards?”
In addition to the mayor’s action, council President Darlene Harris introduced a “Will of Council” resolution June 15 that would clamp down on CPRB investigations.
“They want us to wait to seek documents until after any federal investigations are completed or lawsuits filed,” said Pittinger. “Not only can that be seen as trying to influence board members, but to influence the court.”
Stevens had scheduled a press conference just prior to the 6 p.m. CPRB board meeting at Freedom Unlimited in the Hill District. Details were not available by New Pittsburgh Courier deadline.
“The CPRB was born in 1997 out of the tragedy of Jonny Gammage due to the need for an independent review of police procedures and use of force,” said Stevens. “Now it appears the mayor and some members of council want it shut down for doing exactly what it was created to do. The mayor said the board isn’t doing enough. I guess asking that the police chief be found in contempt of court isn’t being active.”
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