Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Pittsburgh Paradox: OTOH, Some Great News

by Vannevar Bush

I've recently written about my personal Pittsburgh paradox: namely, what I love most about Pittsburgh is Burgh Culture, but the two things that chafe at me about Pittsburgh are also culturally determined.

My two major disappointments with Pittsburgh are the acceptance of police violence (and police entitlement) and the acceptance of bicycle violence.

Police violence is generally against black citizens and if you want a specific model you wouldn't have to look any further than Jordan Miles. Police entitlement is demonstrated by the sense that we're here to submit to the police, rather than the police are here to serve and protect the citizens.

The great majority of Pittsburgh Police are good, virtuous, brave, honorable public servants who are besmirched by the bad apples among them. Just like a lot of populations, the police don't willingly give up any of their own, and they suffer for it. That's a universal.

This last week saw multiple examples of tremendous progress, both in terms of advocacy, organisational intelligence and leadership. I refer to

  • the reassignment of Jonathan Gromek,
  • the withdrawal of charges against teacher Dennis Henderson,
  • the assignment of Commander Rashall Bracknay to the Trayvon Martin protests, and
  • Bracknay's advance work and handling of the situation.

It's so good to see that much good news, and my compliments to all involved - especially the folks behind the scenes, who carried the bulk of the load and remain unnamed.


  1. First, I agree with you more than I disagree with you.

    So the feds and the DA and a civil trial all find that the officers acted appropriately and you are still citing the Jordan Miles incident. This is as bad as local activists continuing to blame the City of Pittsburgh for the Gamage case (which was a Brentwood case).

    Neither you nor I know what happened that evening with Jordan Miles and the officers. Whatever happened to due process? Does it not mean anything in Pittsburgh anymore?

    Disagree with on the Gromek reassignment. Gromek should have been taken off of the streets immediately upon discovering the incident. And that incident was well documented via video. It made the Acting Chief appear to reacting to public pressure rather than serving as a true leader.

    Agree with you on the withdrawal of Henderson charges. That was a disgrace which I would call a joke except there was absolutely nothing funny about it. Harassing an individual who has concerns about city employees driving in a manner that puts the employee and the public in danger is not a joke and is not funny. Henderson should be congratulated for standing up for himself and others by calling out this "speed racer". A complete review needs to be done on police driving habits in responding to or not responding to calls. A definite habit that needs to be stopped is using the lights and sirens in a non-emergency situations (such as wanting to get back to your station at the end of shift). A review needs to done on how officers enter an intersection while responding to emergency calls (by law, they are required to insure the intersection is clear before entering).

    I would hope (but am not convinced) that all of the police commanders would have handled the protests in a manner like Brackney. Don't have much faith in their leadership abilities or community interaction skills to believe they would have made the same non-confrontational decisions that Brackney made. Kudos to her.

  2. Anon:

    My only disagreement with what you said is the feds did not find that the officers acted properly. What they said was they were certain they could not get a jury to convict them, and that was why they declined to prosecute.

  3. Well, thank you.

    Personally, I think the Jordan Miles case swung when the black police chief completely supported the three white officers. The Chief's testimony removed the racial component from the case. Fast-forward a year to when the Chief is completely discredited, that trial would have gone quite differently.

    I really enjoyed Chris Potter's insight the other night while Brackney was working the protest: (paraphrase) anybody who thinks that the diversity of the force doesn't matter, or where the officers live doesn't matter, should be here watching this right now.

  4. Van, I agree w/ Shawn a little more than you, and I agree with Potter's former more than his latter.

    Well done crediting "the assignment" of Cmdr. Brackney; I'm not sure it was an assignment or a pro-active force and a "green light" or "thumbs up" from above, but what with the recent proclamations it needed writ.