Friday, May 6, 2011

Police Accountability: A Plea for Patience

It was all right here months ago:

But David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh professor who specializes in law-enforcement issues, says that even if the Justice Department declines to prosecute, local officials should act independently.

Federal investigators must meet a higher burden of proof, he notes. While a district attorney might prosecute on evidence of assault, for example, the FBI must "prove all of that, plus that [the crime] was done to violate federal civil rights."

"What you would not want to see is the federal investigation close ... and then the state and local [authorities] say, 'If they can't, we can't,'" Harris adds. "If that would happen, there would be questions to be asked." (CP, Chris Young)

Recall exactly what US Attorney David Hickton took pains to explain on Wednesday. Recognize that the Office of Municipal Investigations (OMI) already announced it was standing down a day later.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. has said he would wait until federal authorities were finished before deciding what he would do. His spokesman, Mike Manko, said he would have no comment until the office contacts the U.S. attorney's office next week and receives reports from OMI. (Trib, Margaret Harding)

Good that he is taking a deliberate, serious approach. His is the correct arena for this dispute right now.

One must fight to remember that the impossibility of a federal civil rights case does not mean the City could not have engaged in some systemic civil injustice -- nor that the officers necessarily were innocent of any sort of conceivable professional misconduct, regardless of whether we take Jordan Miles at his every word. Yes, OMI took a pass even on issuing what many would consider to be slaps on the wrist -- perhaps out of recognition that these men have already been transmogrified into regional pariahs, perhaps out of fear of jeopardizing other litigation. But the public rally today appears to be timely and appropriate in terms of its plea to the DA's office.

After that, we'll see.

We have to prepare ourselves for the possibility that those police officers we train, prime and send into the likelihood of sudden, brutal, racially-charged confrontation cannot intelligibly be charged as criminals. Not by their co-conspirators at any rate. Yet even at the end of that day, there need be no dearth of teachable and accountability moments -- just not of the type some of us dream about.

*-UPDATE: The "Alliance for Police Accountability" is taking their brief directly to the Chief of Police, as well as to OMI.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Band: Guns N' Roses

The vintage: The 1990 compilation Nobody's Child: Romanian Angel Appeal and later the 1991 album Use Your Illusion II.^

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Koch gets Kraus on Campaign Ethics Issue **

Councilman Bruce Kraus, campaigning now to defend his South Side seat, accepted contributions over the legal limits he helped to enact -- but seems to have found a way around that, even having months ago declared his intentions in doing so to the County Elections Board.

Rebuffed by the elections department, the Koch camp is filing an ethics complaint against Kraus and may file a Common Pleas Court complaint, as the ordinance also allows, campaign manager Tim Brinton said. (P-G Early Returns, Tim McNulty)

Kraus's campaign manager is quoted as arguing that the code is silent on this matter of what we will now call "Paying-it-Forward".

*-UPDATE: Looks like Kraus isn't the only one. Two other Council incumbents are in that boat, reports the CP Slag Heap's Chris Potter.

**-UPDATE II: Perhaps more. It will take some time to settle the "good faith confusion".

*-FOOTNOTE: Was I being political? Judge for yourself -- author disclaimers in comment #7.

Kraus sends out a response (although now it looks like it was a response to far more).

Negotiated Settlement: Billboard Coming Down

Time to cash in or tear up those betting stubs:

Scenic Pittsburgh Executive Director Mike Dawida said in a statement that the unfinished billboard will be removed before Sept. 1. (Trib, Bill Vidonic)

It's a wonder anymore what all the fuss was about.

Also, the city placed a moratorium on electronic billboards until regulations are drafted and approved by council. Those regulations are still being pondered by the city`s planning commission. (ibid)

Those regulations have been proceeding very slowly, even by relative standards -- but hey, mo' moratorium, mo' less problems.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Keep an Eye On MSNBC for Pittsburgh's Experience with Gun Violence.

MSNBC news show host Rachel Maddow was in Pittsburgh this past weekend to cover the NRA convention -- and while visiting, she and her film crew seized an opportunity to take a tour of Homewood and other local neighborhoods detrimentally impacted by gun violence, according to the office of Councilman Ricky Burgess.

The results were scheduled to air yesterday at 9:00 PM -- but of course there has been an onslaught of national / world historic breaking news since then. Just keep one eye and your TiVo-machine trained on Rachel's time slot this week, in the event that she and the network circle back to utilize all the East End / NRA footage.

*-TANGENTIALLY RELATED: The PGH City Paper Online today provides more Burgess news -- let it all out, it's interesting.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The President's Speech (Trailer)

NOTE: This this a work of satire, produced by President Obama's Chicago buddies.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Police Chief Nate Harper Speaks to Demonstrators Protesting the NRA

The PGH City Paper Online captures the scene at the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network rally:

Before marching to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown, where members of the NRA had gathered, protesters stood at Freedom Square to hear speakers discuss the need to stop gun violence and tighten gun restrictions.

"It's not about the Second Amendment," Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper told demonstrators. "It's about common sense ... We're the best country in the world, but we don't act like it when it comes to guns." (CP Slag Heap, Daley & Young)

The P-G recently ran a piece against several controversial NRA policies:

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms maintains a database which could provide a wide variety of valuable [illegal gun] trace information with just a few keystrokes. But the NRA's allies in Congress have successfully passed laws which limit the data that may be released to law enforcement agencies.

The catch is that each agency may receive information only about its own gun recoveries and traces. So, for instance, Pittsburgh police cannot view information on gun recoveries and traces in the many boroughs that surround the city. Since gun traffickers and other violators do not respect municipal or state borders, it is puzzling that the NRA would push for laws that serve only to hamper efforts at investigation and interagency intelligence gathering. (P-G Op-Ed, Pgh. Police Detective Joseph Bielevicz)

It goes up and down the line like this. America's culture is hampered not by any reverence for handguns nor worship of self-reliance -- but rather by a high-charged paranoia to guard the 2nd Amendment against every conceivable slight and treachery, a fanaticism employed with as much ill-faith as Birtherism.

(Photo cap: archival,