Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Nothing to See Here

Experts who take a hard line in dealing with police officers accused of domestic violence recommend a range of approaches by departments, including temporarily putting alleged abusers on desk duty, taking away their guns or forbidding contact with their accusers.

Pittsburgh employs none of those techniques, hewing instead to a mostly hands-off policy.

The Post-Gazette article goes on and on and on, but that lede says it all. Other cities are doing things, and Pittsburgh does nothing.

Hubert Williams, who ran the Newark Police Department in New Jersey for 11 years and is president of the Police Foundation think tank, expressed surprise that police brass in Pittsburgh are not more proactive.

"I'm surprised, quite frankly, because I know they just got out from under a consent decree, because this is the kind of thing that opens the door to outside intervention in internal affairs. If we're going to let the courts decide whether the officer's conduct was appropriate, it's problematic," Mr. Williams said.

The bureau was under federal oversight from 1997 to 2002 after the U.S. Justice Department said it could prove a "pattern and practice" of police misconduct.

Maybe we're not being fair. At the recent post-agenda session of council, union president James Malloy argued that once a Mayor chooses his Chief, and Council approves that Chief, it is incumbent upon all of us to place our faith in that Chief, and to simmer down.

Since our Chief has elected to take no measures against any officers, that is a clear indication that all of our officers have become exemplary citizens over the past decade.

The issue is now front and center in the Pittsburgh bureau, where at least 34 current officers have been defendants in PFAs. Top brass recently promoted three officers whose histories included accusations of domestic abuse that did not include protection orders.


Well, it could be argued that in all 34 out of those 34 cases, and in the cases of the three promoted officers (two of which merited a mayoral reprimand), and in all the cases we don't know about because they did not culminate in official PFAs -- nothing really happened.

Nothing important. Nothing bad enough to disrupt a good cop's career.

For all we know, those alleged "victims" all came after those poor police officers with frying pans!

Under pressure from City Council and various public interest groups, Police Chief Nathan E. Harper is updating the bureau's policies regarding officer-involved domestic disputes. One of the changes he plans is to authorize an "administrative investigation" of all domestic violence incidents.

Does that sound like anything? Maybe it's the scare-quotes, but to us that sure doesn't sound like anything.


  1. Bram,

    Good post. As one of many who were under whelmed by the Post Agenda, I am even more concerned that necessary changes will not happen.

    We need to keep our eye on our elected officials and on those they appoint to leadership within the Police Dept.

  2. You will not see the PG write an article about the other 98% of our police force.

    No, that doesn't sell newspapers.

  3. The Truth,

    I am working to see the PD correct itself not only on behalf of the victims of abusive officers, but also on behalf of the HUNDREDS of good officers in our PD.

    For their own, (valid), reasons both victims and good cops are silent.

    I am ever-grateful to good officers and cringe when I think of what a kick to the gut the 3 promotions in question must have been to them. I cannot fathom why so many good officers were jumped over for the promotions of the three.

    In my opinion we do not thank good officers enough, nor do we pay them anywhere near enough.

    As a citizen I am doing what I can to keep the light on the city & PD's leadership's lack of resolve to do the right thing.

    If you have an inside track to officers, perhaps you can encourage them to become active and voice their concerns to the brass & the FOP. I am sure they want the PD to be held in the highest regard and to have the total trust of the citizens of Pittsburgh.

    Why should all be tarnished by the criminal behavior of a few and the lack of leadership at the top?

  4. Thetruth, this wasn't an article about bad police officers! This was an article about top brass not bothering to weed out any.