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Allegheny County Criminal Justice Advisory Board pushed to improve police work

| Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, 11:36 p.m.

Reducing errors in eyewitness identification and promoting the use of videorecording in police work are part of a push by a group of Allegheny County judges, politicians and criminal justice professionals, the county's president judge said Monday.

President Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, who co-chairs the county's Criminal Justice Advisory Board, met with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, also a member of the board, to discuss plans that include reducing criminal case backlogs, data sharing between agencies and how police interview suspects.

“We want to make sure he's on board with what we want to do,” Manning said. “The object is to have everyone on the same page.”

Manning cited examples of police best practices, including videotaping police interrogations, showing witnesses photos of potential suspects one at a time instead of together and a new law that allows mounting cameras on officers.

Gov. Tom Corbett said this month he would sign legislation that would allow Pittsburgh police to use its long-dormant $143,000 stockpile of small helmet- and lapel-mounted video cameras. The Legislature changed the wiretap law to authorize officers to put recording devices on motorcycles, bicycles or their bodies. The law had required powering such devices from a police cruiser.

The mayor is working with the judge and rest of the board, Peduto spokesman Tim McNulty said.

“There is a lot of work to be done on this and will require efforts by the county executive, myself and the municipalities,” Peduto said.

Duquesne University law professor John Rago attended the meeting. He headed a Senate panel — Advisory Committee on Wrongful Convictions — that spent nearly five years studying, in part, the best investigative and legal practices across the country. Rago said changes in practices would promote public confidence in police.

Among other issues the advisory board has targeted are increased mental health treatment and employment help for released jail inmates, and pushing to regionalize police services when possible.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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