Expertise or bias? Fitzgerald names three ex-police to oversight board

Stacey Hawthorne was one of four appointed to the Independent Police Review Board by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. (Photo by Lilly Kubit/PublicSource)

Allegheny County’s police review board has eight of nine seats filled but still faces questions about its composition and role.

Allegheny County’s Independent Police Review Board now has enough members to begin work, 18 months after the board’s creation. And while this begins a new phase in the quest for oversight of the county’s 100-plus police departments, questions remain over the board’s role and its members’ balance of backgrounds.

County Council appointed four members to the board in early September. On Sept. 30, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald named his four appointees to the board, meaning that eight of the board’s nine seats are filled. 

The way forward for the board is unclear, though. There’s no word on when the board will begin meeting; it’s not known how many, if any, municipalities will choose to enter the board’s jurisdiction; and the board still needs a ninth member, which must be jointly appointed by Fitzgerald and council.

Of the board’s eight members, four are Pittsburgh residents, three are former law enforcement and one is younger than 55. The board members have terms that vary from one to four years.

Fitzgerald’s four appointees:

  • Stacey Hawthorne, a Pittsburgh resident and former Pittsburgh police detective 
  • Coleman McDonough, a Bethel Park resident and former county police superintendent
  • Robert Meinert, Neville resident and former municipal and county police officer
  • Regina Ragin-Dykes, a Pittsburgh resident, pastor and vice president of the Pittsburgh NAACP

Hawthorne told PublicSource in an interview that the board’s charge is to “make the people feel comfortable about police and policing.”

Two of Fitzgerald’s appointees are Black, as are two of council’s picks.

Amie Downs, the executive’s spokesperson, said Fitzgerald felt it was important to have minority representation on the board because of the high number of police-civilian interactions that involve people of color. 

McDonough, who was given the longest term at four years, said it’s helpful for a review board to have inside expertise.

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