Allegheny County Council acted in April 2021 to create an Independent Police Review Board to provide oversight to the county’s dozens of police agencies outside of Pittsburgh.  Fourteen months on, the board has yet to hear a case or have a member sworn in, and it’s unclear when either will happen.

“It has been a bit longer than I would have liked,” said Council President Pat Catena. 

Part of the delay was baked into the legislation. Board members couldn’t be seated until the first of this year. But the process of appointing board members is ongoing, with no established deadline.

The legislation says the council will select four of the board’s nine members; the chief executive will select four others; and the council and executive will need to agree on a ninth. 

Council is in a protracted process of whittling a list of 15 candidates down to four appointees. While the legislation allowed for the board to be seated in January, Councilman Tom Duerr said it took extra time to find a batch of willing, suitable candidates.

Council invited the public to express interest in serving on the board in March and council members selected candidates to be among the 15 now in consideration. Today at 5 p.m., council’s Committee on Appointment Review will venture to whittle down the group. 

Once council and Fitzgerald separately finish the appointment process, the board’s jurisdiction will be limited at the start. 

By law, its investigative and reporting powers will initially only cover Allegheny County’s own police force, which patrols county parks and airports and assists local police on complex cases including homicides. Municipal police forces, which number around 100, will be included if their local officials opt in.

The board will not have the power to discipline police officers, but it will respond to complaints from the public with formal investigations, including public hearings and sworn testimony. If the board’s findings sustain a complaint, it can recommend disciplinary action, which requires a written response from the police department involved. The board can also make criminal referrals to the district attorney or state attorney general.

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