Allegheny County council see standstill in forming independent police review board

·3 min read

In April 2021, the Allegheny County council created an independent police review board to oversee the county’s dozens of police agencies outside of the city, but now more than a year-and-a-half later there are no members and no police agencies 100% on board.

Channel 11 News asked the council what is taking so long to get this done.

“The reality is that the legislation only allowed the board to begin in January of 2022,” explained Bethany Hallam.

Fourteen months ago, the county council approved legislation to create a police review board, but still no board members are seated.

“[We] spent time going through the resumes and doing interviews for the various candidates and just trying to figure out who are the four that council is going to put forward,” said Hallam.

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Council has vetted 15 candidates and on Tuesday night it will begin to dwindle those to four appointees - who will be reinterviewed and then approved.

Council member-at-large Bethany Hallam said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald will then need to appoint five more to complete the nine-member board.

Today Fitzgerald’s office had no timeline for when appointments will be chosen, but co-sponsor councilman Tom Dueer said getting the right board members is important.

“Serving on a board like this is not something that everyone wants to do or is suited for,” said Council member Tom Dueer, who co-sponsored the legislation.

Another hurdle is getting municipalities and police departments to participate.

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“We haven’t had any 100 percent commitments since the board has been effective,” said Hallam.

Effectiveness is a concern for community groups like the Alliance for Police Accountability, who say it’s hard to have an advisory board that provides no mandated participation or oversight power.

“Oversight boards, I think are as good as the policy that creates them, they have to have teeth. They have to be able to subpoena police officers,” said Brandi Fisher, the CEO of the Alliance for Police Accountability.

The county police review board will have the power to get documents, take complaints and refer suggestions. It will not have a subpoena or punitive power.

“The bill is intended to be a community solution. But so many folks on the council, in the administration, and even members of the public have made it an anti-police bill, and none of those things are true. It is an investigatory body to provide oversight to employees that the taxpayers’ fund,” said Hallam.

Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m.

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