Council drive-by: Let the Citizen Police Review Board do its job

Written by Susan Mannella on .

Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of Pittsburgh's Citizen Police Review Board, has every right to be angry. On Tuesday, she watched as City Council voted 6-0 with three abstentions to urge the board to slow its pursuit of documents on police conduct during the G-20 summit last year.

As lawsuits stemming from the event move forward, council approved the nonbinding resolution because of fear of the city's legal liabilities. Councilman Patrick Dowd, for instance, gave lip service to the importance of the review board's work but said the agency should yield to council's broader considerations of what's best for the city.

In March Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. ordered the city to turn over thousands of pages of arrest reports, police training information and riot control manuals so that the watchdog board could investigate charges of police abuse during G-20.

The city handed over the documents, but many were heavily redacted. Ms. Pittinger insists that such records are useless for the board's purposes.

To add insult to injury, council, acting on a request by the city's law department, is now asking the board to muzzle itself and accept the police department's version of events to hold off the lawyers council insists are massing at the gates of Pittsburgh.

Today Judge Wettick will hear the review board's complaints about the city's intransigence. For violating the judge's order, Police Chief Nate Harper and the city should be held in contempt. As for council's vote to discourage the work of a civilian board, it should be ashamed of itself.

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