Pitt Center Provides Resources for Police Accountability

With the hyper fragmentation of Allegheny County – containing 130 municipalities and 108 police departments – Pitt’s Center for Analytical Approaches to Social Innovation has created a resource to bring together and consolidate police information in one place.

CAASI studies a variety of social issues – such as systemic racism, the wage gap, and inmate reintegration – in Allegheny County using quantitative methods to create innovative solutions. The Center also creates and provides easy-to-navigate resources – such as the Allegheny County Police Project – for citizens, researchers and activists to use in filing misconduct reports, understanding police union contracts and increasing police accountability.

Ivy Chang, CAASI’s communications coordinator, said she was excited about the project because of its accessibility and its potential to make law enforcement more transparent.

“[It] just makes it a lot more transparent, everything that’s going on within police unions, from the various problematic languages ​​in their police union contracts to knowing about police budgets and where the money goes, ”Chang said. , a young student in finance and economics. . “So having this accessibility to information is something that really excites me and I really believe in the work of this project.”

According to Chang, CAPP is based on Zero Campaign – a non-profit organization that encourages policy makers to focus on solutions to end police violence and provides guidelines for identifying problematic languages ​​and police contracts. Chang said Campaign Zero has helped identify systemic issues within police forces, such as how the police are less likely to be held accountable in certain situations.

“So, for example, sometimes if a complaint is filed and honestly anonymously, it’s just dismissed,” Chang said. “Or if a complaint is heard in some cases, if no discipline is taken, the complaint is destroyed.”

According to Mikaela Chandler, CAASI project manager, two tools are currently in development as part of the project – the Police contract analysis tool and Police Misconduct Tool.

Chandler, a graduate student in the Masters of Public Administration program, runs the Police Inconduct Tool. She said she leads a group of volunteers involved in data science, social activism and community organizing at various universities across the country, including Pitt, George Washington and Tufts.

According to Chandler, the purpose of the Police Inconduct Tool is to make disciplinary processes – such as filing a complaint against a police officer – more understandable to the general public.

“What we did was we kind of went through the process in Pittsburgh of what it’s like to file a complaint against a police officer and we kind of broke that down into something really comprehensive and understandable. for people, ”Chandler said.

Chandler said the tool will help avoid confusion between when someone sends a complaint and when it is reviewed by the Citizen Police Review Board or the Municipal Investigations Office. She said that being informed during the process is helpful so that citizens can understand the results of the review and properly exercise their rights.

We really wanted to know the people who were going to be using this tool and try to make it as accessible and easy to understand as possible, ”Chandler said. “And so we wanted to make sure we created a tool that was easy to understand for as many people as possible. “

Chandler also said the tool is also intended to provide people with a “one stop shop” for information.

“The hope with the tool is to somehow provide all the information in one place,” Chandler said. “So if you’re in Pittsburgh and you’ve experienced some level of misconduct with an officer in the Pittsburgh office, you can go [to a] kind of a one-stop-shop to get all the information you need, sort of know what is expected of you and also provide context that a lot of people might not have.

Chang said the Police Contract Analysis Tool is an interactive map used to display the 130 municipalities in Allegheny County and includes a searchable contract database with additional contract information. It also includes a keyword research tool to analyze what Chang said could be problematic language in police contracts.

Eliana Beigel, CAASI project manager, said the Police Contract Analysis Tool shows the many processes involved in police union contracts.

“There are so many moving parts,” said Beigel, an MPA graduate student, “and we’ve learned that police union contracts are actually a very, very big part of it. They can be a big obstacle to accountability and transparency.

According to Beigel, the “many moving parts” of police contracts are due to the fact that different police departments have their own contracts with different sets of rules. Due to the lack of written procedures or contracts in some police departments – such as the East Pittsburgh Police Department – Beigel said it can be difficult for citizens to truly understand how to interact with police investigations after a incident relating to a potential violation of the law. .

“One thing that has occurred to us is that many of these contracts do not detail a process for investigating citizen complaints,” Beigel said. The East Pittsburgh Police Department found that it simply had no written procedures, so the absence of such things could be of concern. “

The East Pittsburgh Police Department was dissolved after a department officer beaten down Antwon Rose Jr., an unarmed 17-year-old, in 2018. After being accused with one count of criminal homicide, jurors found the officer – Michael Rosfeld, a former police officer from Pitt – not guilty.

Chandler said that through her work, she wanted people to feel empowered by sharing their experiences with police misconduct.

“I think I would like people to feel that their experience is valuable and that they feel empowered to share it with the people who need to hear it, because it is an important avenue for change,” said Chandler.