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Pittsburgh police need protocol for responding to 'unknown trouble' calls, board staff says

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Pittsburgh police should develop a protocol for responding to “unknown trouble” calls — such as the one a Larimer woman made the night before police discovered her body — according to recommendations staff of the Citizen Police Review Board presented at a board meeting Tuesday.

Executive Director Elizabeth Pittinger outlined 12 general policy recommendations that included a voluntary 911 enrollment system for victims of domestic violence to have their numbers flagged if they call 911, increased 911 and other training for police officers and a policy instructing call takers to ask whether a call is domestic-related.

“They do have protocols for different kinds of responses ... but not specifically for unknown trouble,” Pittinger said.

Staff investigated the 911 call Ka‘Sandra Wade, 33, made a day before police found her dead of a gunshot wound at her Lowell Street home. Two police officers responding to the call on Dec. 31 left after Wade‘s boyfriend, Anthony L. Brown, 51, of Point Breeze, spoke to them through a window but refused to let them in. The officers never spoke to Wade or confirmed whether she was inside and needed help.

Brown confessed to killing her in a note and committed suicide during a standoff at his apartment on Jan. 2.

“You have to talk to the person who made the call,” board member Emma Lucas-Darby said. “That really has to be corrected.”

The board could not take official action because only three of the six members attended the meeting. Lucas-Darby said board members will take up the recommendations at their next meeting and possibly present them to Pittsburgh police.

“I want to make sure this moves in a timely fashion,” Lucas-Darby said.

The review board issues advisory recommendations, which police are under no requirement to accept or implement. Acting Chairman Ralph Norman, a former city police officer, said he wants to review the board's investigation further but thought the recommendations made sense.

“They seem totally appropriate,” he said.

Other recommendations included: retain police, fire and EMS supervisors at the 911 center; require dispatchers to go on police ride-alongs; make sure police pass along odd calls for service and open line calls during roll call; increase domestic violence training; encourage more use of officers trained in crisis intervention; monitor and screen employees for symptoms of post-traumatic stress; use a first-responder assessment tool, and enroll supervisors in management programs.

Margaret Harding is a staff writer f or Trib T otal Media. She can b e reached at 412-380-851 9 o r mharding@tribweb.com.

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