Noting that it will take a cooperative effort to reduce community violence, Pittsburgh Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess has unveiled a new initiative designed to do just that.
Joined by fellow council members, the mayor, representatives from the Department of Public Safety and community groups, Burgess announced the creation of the Safer Together Pittsburgh Community Partnership.
“This is an initiative to increase public safety and insure delivery of fair and impartial public safety services,” he said during a Feb. 3 press conference. “Its purpose is to build relationships of respect by improving education and public understanding of procedure, insuring fair treatment and facilitating community activities that encourage positive interactions.”
In addition to building positive police community relationships, the partnership program seeks to build on those relationships to increase minority recruitment and hiring in the public safety department.
The partnership’s management team will be comprised of representatives from Mayor Bill Peduto’s office, Public Safety, and councilmen R. Daniel Lavelle, Bruce Kraus and Burgess. They will, in turn appoint a steering committee and program manager(s) to run the initiative and coordinate activities with community partners.
Suggested steering committee members and community partners include representatives from the: business community, faith community, public safety councils, legal profession, academia, the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Public Schools, Citizens Police Review Board, Urban League, Black Political Empowerment Project, Alliance for Police Accountability and the NAACP.
Burgess said he was happy that Peduto is taking an active part in the initiative and pleased to be working with the mayor.
“It’s always nice to have the support of the Mayor,” he said.
The partnership will conduct an assessment of Public Safety’s community outreach and education efforts, and will develop a database system and protocol that will allow the department to track who is attending which meetings and if there are any actionable or policy issues that need attention based upon the meetings. It will also set up a series of structured “community conversations” among the Department of Public Safety and community members from every area of the city.
Peduto thanked Burgess for putting the initiative together and presenting it to city council.
“This resolution formalized a relationship and a bond between our bureau of police, our department of public safety and our people,” he said. “Our admin has been about community policing from the start and this only helps to more adequately formalize that policy.”
Public Safety Director Steven Bucar said the program will build on seeds the department, and especially police Chief Cameron McLay have been planting with community outreach.
McLay said he is excited about the program.
“Leadership within out communities are coming together to join we, the police, to make a powerful difference in the public safety challenges that are plaguing us,” he said. “Here we are pulling together. I’m proud of us and of what we’ll accomplish together.”
The timetable and budgetary requirements for the program have yet to be defined, but council, the mayor’s office and Public Safety are expected to contribute funding.
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