Share This Page

Respect training for Pittsburgh police officers pitched

| Tuesday, July 23, 2013, 11:52 p.m.

Pittsburgh police could receive training about treating residents with respect if legislation introduced in City Council on Tuesday becomes law.

Councilman Ricky Burgess presented four proposals, including a bill that would authorize the city to pay up to $150,000 to the Unleashing Respect Project. The group trains police officers to treat community members with “unconditional respect,” Burgess said. He has said there's a crisis in relations between the city police and the community, with each side believing the worst of the other.

“The best way to increase public safety is to increase community confidence,” said Burgess, who learned of the group from U.S. Attorney David Hickton.

Acting police Chief Regina McDonald said she has no problem with more training, but she questioned paying a single company $150,000.

“I feel that's exorbitant,” McDonald said. “We could spend $150,000 doing a lot of other training.”

Representatives with the Unleashing Respect Project could not be reached for comment.

“We have over 800 officers to train,” McDonald said. “It's important when we do programs like this that the company is able to do a ‘train the trainer' so we can have our own officers conduct the training on each shift.”

Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1 President Michael LaPorte called the proposed training insulting.

“We treat all people the way we want to be treated, until that person gives us a reason not to,” said LaPorte, a city police sergeant.

Burgess also proposed giving the Citizen Police Review Board about $20,000 to hold a police-community relations summit featuring national police experts. McDonald said the department has not been involved in discussions about a summit. She said she wasn't sure why the board would need $20,000 to do its work. The Citizen Police Review Board is an independent agency set up to investigate citizen complaints about improper police conduct.

“What we hope to be able to do is to create an environment that gets to the meat of a problem we have going on in Pittsburgh right now,” board Executive Director Beth Pittinger said. “Our goal is common. We want a safe community. We want people and cops to be safe, so we have to get there somehow.”

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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.