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CPD In the News

| Building an Immigrant Justice Initiative, Combating Discriminatory Policing, Raising the Bar for Workers and Families
Published By:Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Black leaders in Pittsburgh echo frustration voiced across nation

Pittsburgh could easily become the next Dallas as frustrations in poor black neighborhoods continue to mount over perceived economic inequalities and mistreatment by police officers, black community members said Friday.

They condemned the attacks in Dallas that left five officers dead and seven officers and two civilians wounded.

They attributed the shootings to escalating frustration over socio-economic conditions in poor neighborhoods and repeated incidents across the nation in which officers were caught on video using deadly force to subdue minorities.

“These things will fester and grow and grow and grow,” said Connie Parker, president of the Pittsburgh branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “It's Texas right now, but it can be Pittsburgh next week.”

T. Rashad Byrdsong, president and founder of Community Empowerment Association, a Homewood-based nonprofit, said police officers have become a whipping post for deep-rooted problems beyond their control.

“The real problem is the inability of our public officials to sit down and come up with some comprehensive plan on how to include everybody in this democratic process,” Byrdsong said.

Pittsburgh has had its share of high-profile incidents. The most recent in January — the fatal shooting by Port Authority police of Tyrone Kelly Jr., a 37-year-old homeless man who fatally stabbed a police K-9 dog — drew protests. Police killed Kelly while attempting to arrest him for drinking beer on Port Authority property after he stabbed the dog.

In April 2009, Officers Eric G. Kelly, Stephen J. Mayhle and Paul J. Sciullo II were killed by Richard Poplawski while responding to a 911 call about a domestic disturbance at his Stanton Heights home

Pittsburgh police Chief Cameron McLay was in Washington for a conference when news of the Dallas shootings broke Thursday night. He and his command staff returned to Pittsburgh immediately to begin reaching out to community leaders. He said he was worried about the mood he'd find when he returned to the city Friday morning.

“I expected to find the atmosphere more tense,” he said, adding that city officers remain positive. “I'm really, really proud of them.”

Officers across Allegheny County said that it was impossible not to react emotionally to the massacre in Dallas. A Pittsburgh officer directing traffic Downtown called the mood somber but professional.

Malik Bankston, executive director of the Kingsley Center in Larimer, praised McLay and Mayor Bill Peduto for initiatives to improve relations between police and residents.

“To me, that's sort of the heart of the challenges we have right now, this whole idea of building trust,” Bankston said. “That's very unglamorous, thankless work that's only going to be realized over time, but there has to be a commitment from the highest level.”

Tim Stevens, chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project in the Hill District, said Dallas is a pivotal moment for the nation to begin bridging a racial divide.

He said the majority of black people are horrified by violence directed toward police, but they also feel the justice system is weighted against them. He called on political and community leaders and residents to unite in an effort to find solutions.

“We have a lot of work to do,” he said.

Greensburg police on its Facebook page said that “no police officer wakes up in the morning wandering who they can shoot today. Realize that none of us are perfect, but we certainly strive to be the best that we can.”

 By Bob Bauder  & Megan Guza