Pittsburgh City Council proposal would change police stop-and-frisk policy

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pittsburgh City Council is looking at adjusting the stop-and-frisk policy.

The bill was proposed in January and has been discussed for months with some city council members saying with what is happening lately when it comes to public safety and policing, it’s time to move the bill forward.

Local leaders KDKA talked with say the changes being discussed are a good thing when it comes to improving police-community relations in the city of Pittsburgh.

Black Political Empowerment Project Chairman Tim Stevens says he’s glad to see action finally being taken.

“We have been proposing this since April when the George Floyd verdict was called in,” said Stevens.

City council has given preliminary approval to create a mandate to require police officers to document why they believe they have a reasonable suspicion to stop a pedestrian without a warrant. 

The final passage of the bill is contingent on the approval of a proposed amendment from Pittsburgh Public Safety that would change the language of the bill. That change would allow officers to verbally tell the person what led to the stop and give them a police report that would explain the reasonable suspicion.

“This will help everybody size each other up before there’s an engagement and hopefully lead to a safer community and bring more respect to the process of police in their caretaking role as opposed to their enforcement role,” said executive director of the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board Beth Pittinger. 

A spokesperson for Councilman Ricky Burgess says he’s talked with the police bureau, and they’ve agreed to the changes, so now he’s waiting on those changes to be finalized before it goes to council for a final vote. Right now, the bill says that if an arrest does not take place, the officer has to provide the pedestrian with written documentation of why the stop occurred.

The hope is the bill would reduce racial disparities in the way Pittsburgh police interact with residents.

“If you look at the reports in the last year or so, about 70 or more percent of the stops have been of Black people in the city of Pittsburgh and we are only 23 percent of the population,” said Stevens.

Before the council can take a final vote on the bill, the amendment has to be considered by the council.

KDKA reached out to the president of the Fraternal Order of Police who says the legislation is not an FOP issue. The president went on to say officers will do what they’re told to do. He says if the district attorney, chiefs and legislators aren’t concerned about the ordinance, it’s way beyond anything an officer can correct as well as the FOP.

KDKA also reached out to the mayor’s office and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, who didn’t have comments.

Burgess’ office says they should have the finalized language from the police bureau by Friday.

City council considering change to stop and frisk