Allegheny County Council to reconsider Civilian Police Review Board proposal

Allegheny County Council will again consider an order to create a countywide civilian police review board.

DeWitt Walton, a Hill District Democrat representing District 10, reintroduced the ordinance at Tuesday’s council meeting.

“The council’s obligation is to provide fairness and justice to all residents of the county,” Walton told council when the ordinance was reintroduced. “I hope that during this legislative session, many of the half-truths and outright lies will not be used to try to discredit the legislation. I respect the right of individuals to disagree, but if we operate with integrity, we will engage in honest and frank discussion and not half-truths and lies. The people of Allegheny County deserve no less.

The nine-member unpaid council would be tasked with investigating complaints of alleged misconduct by Allegheny County law enforcement. Any municipality or county municipal authority would be allowed to participate.

Walton’s bill, which was co-sponsored by new District 5 Rep. Tom Duerr, D-Bethel Park, is identical to a version the council considered in 2019.

This order, co-sponsored by Walton and Paul Klein, D-Point Breeze, was defeated by a 9-6 vote in August.

Critics of the order said it would have been too costly and questioned whether civilians had the expertise to oversee law enforcement. Others have argued that a county review board is redundant, as county council and city councils already provide oversight, and lacks teeth as it does not allow cross-examination of witnesses.

Walton pushed back on that criticism, saying he doesn’t think it needs to be changed or amended.

“The legislation establishes the Independent Police Review Board as an investigative body,” Walton said. “You can’t sue. The role of prosecuting clearly falls within the jurisdiction of the District Attorney, Attorney General or their delegates. It is therefore not necessary to cross-examine the witnesses. When you cross-examine witnesses, it is during a trial, or during legal proceedings.

The most recent version of Walton’s order will now go to the Public Safety Committee, chaired by Olivia Bennett, D-Northview Heights, who was sworn in as a new council member earlier this month.

The committee will review the legislation and decide when it will come back to the full council for a vote.

Bennett and General Representative Bethany Hallam, D-Ross, renewed their calls for the creation of a countywide police review board in a statement Friday.

“We cannot have police officers patrolling our streets who abuse young black girls and our communities at large,” the statement said, referring to a December incident in which West Mifflin police officers arrested a young girl. 15 year old in a school bus. , as reported by Trib press partner WPXI. “We will continue to fight to form a civilian police review board to hold abusive police officers to account.”

Jamie Martines is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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