Police, public tensions decried in Pittsburgh neighborhoods
Pittsburgh Councilman Ricky Burgess said Tuesday he's worried that relations between police and the city's poorest communities are at crisis level.
“On both sides you're going to see violence,” he said. “Both sides are armed. The disconnect that causes trauma on both sides is at the boiling point. We have to get both sides to change these attitudes.”
Burgess pointed to two “false narratives” causing problems: that officers believe people hate them and are complicit in criminal activity, while residents think officers hate them, disrespect them and are out to convict them of crimes.
“If we do not address this, this is a train wreck heading for our city,” Burgess said. “You're looking at a bomb ready to explode.”
Acting police Chief Regina McDonald did not return a message seeking comment. Police spokeswoman Diane Richard said the bureau may need to address training issues “so the level of respect is back on both sides.”
Burgess spoke a day after meeting privately with McDonald, Assistant Chief Maurita Bryant and community members to discuss the arrest of teacher Dennis Henderson, 38, of the North Side.
Officer Jonathan Gromek charged Henderson with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and blocking a public passage when the teacher confronted Gromek about the officer's driving outside a community meeting on June 26 in Homewood. Gromek handcuffed Henderson and a photojournalist, saying Henderson was aggressive and refused to stop shouting to draw a crowd.
Gromek remains on duty. The Office of Municipal Investigations is looking into what happened.
Henderson's preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 10.
At least 10 people talked about their experiences with racial profiling, what they perceive as police brutality and other interactions with law enforcement at an open forum held by the Community Empowerment Association Tuesday night.
Among those who spoke was Medina Bey, 21, who said that several hours earlier she watched city officers kick and punch her two cousins while they were handcuffed on North Homewood Avenue.
“I'm tired of Pittsburgh police messing with these black males,” Bey said. “For the police to beat them like that while they're restrained, I don't think that's fair.”
Zone 5 Cmdr. Timothy O'Connor said at about 1:45 p.m. officers stopped two young men on North Homewood Avenue to check their identification because police thought they may have been too young to purchase tobacco products a few moments earlier in a neighborhood store.
Bey identified her cousins as Will El, 21, and Beyshaud El, 18, both of Homewood. Each was charged with aggravated assault, court records show.
According to court documents, the two men attempted to punch an officer. Police used a Taser to subdue Beyshaud El.
On Monday, officials talked about having community members speak with police recruits at the training academy, Burgess said. Rashad Byrdsong, CEO of the Community Empowerment Association, said the city's training doesn't appear to work.
“They have to understand how to talk to people and not (use) authority and power to intimidate people,” Byrdsong said.
Police recruits attend an eight-hour cultural diversity class required by the Municipal Police Officers' Education & Training Commission, which provides curriculum. Lt. Larry Scirotto, who taught the last three recruit classes, said he brings in a person from a gay or lesbian support group to talk about experiences.
“There's absolutely a benefit to having a member of the affected community give their perspective,” Scirotto said. “I always say we're not here to teach tolerance, we're here to teach acceptance and understanding. It's no longer acceptable to just be tolerant.”
City officers attended an unbiased policing course in 2012 and mandated course on cultural diversity in 2007, Richard said.
Margaret Harding is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519 or email@example.com. Staff writers Bob Bauder and Michael Hasch contributed to this report.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Demolition of Station Square warehouse nears
- O’Hara teen finds inspiration for flying, dodging robot in fruit fly
- Expert: Print on cyanide vial could be vital in Ferrante murder trial
- Labor board’s subpoenas in UPMC case are not relevant, federal judge says
- Newsmaker: Dallas Jackson
- Pitcairn police department to carry Narcan for heroin overdoses
- Police charge Oakmont man in fatal Penn Hills shooting
- AT&T offers customers option to text 911
- Police identify victim of deadly Homewood shooting
- August Wilson Center event rentals thwarted by cooling system repairs
- Pittsburgh city vehicle repair delays elicit gripes about Cincinnati company