Police, Zone 5 residents form ‘feedback loop’ at meeting in East Liberty

Categories: HELP in the News,News

The Pittsburgh TribLive
August 25, 2016

Ellen Harrison said she has faith that Pittsburgh police Chief Cameron McLay is improving police-community relations.

But she still wants to hold him accountable.

“I think things are changing, but it’s going to be a slow process,” said Harrison, 64, of East Liberty. “I came here to see exactly where we’re at and how we can move forward.”

She was one of about 50 people who attended a town hall meeting with McLay and police Zone 5 residents at East End Cooperative Ministries in East Liberty on Thursday.

It was the second in a series of meetings meant to create a “feedback loop” and give officers an opportunity to hear residents’ concerns.

Zone 5, which covers Stanton Heights, Morningside, Highland Park, Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar, Homewood, East Hills, Larimer, East Liberty, Garfield, Friendship, and Bloomfield, was ranked the highest for violent crime in 2015.

About one-third of the city’s 57 homicides last year happened there.

Crime analyst Daniel King shared crime trends with residents and said that shootings in the zone have decreased compared to previous years.

“It’s kind of all over the place, but they are certainly down this year as opposed to other years,” he said.

Attendees posed questions to McLay, Zone 5 Cmdr. Jason Lando and others through a moderator. Questions ranged from whether the police department can increase patrols in certain areas to police training regarding implicit bias.

Beat patrols can be very effective, Lando said, but limited resources have prevented him from putting an officer on every corner. The zone has two ongoing beats: one in the East Liberty mall area and one in Homewood.

“We get a lot of calls out there so it just makes sense to have officers on foot,” Lando said.

Addressing the issue of implicit bias, McLay said his officers have undergone the first round of procedural justice training.

Procedural justice is about “how we interact with one another,” he said, and “by understanding this thing called implicit bias, it gives someone like me, a police officer, an opportunity to hit pause and say ‘OK, is this behavior or is it a bias that I have?’ It really allows us to monitor our own behaviors.”

Bill Schildmecht volunteers with Pittsburgh Harlequins Children’s Charities, a nonprofit that teaches rugby to youth in at-risk neighborhoods.

He said he attended the meeting to see if officers would be willing to go to some of the organization’s games.

“We’ve had several incidents at our field (in Larimer): shots being fired, kids throwing rocks at buses… we need some police presence maybe for an hour after those events,” Schildmecht said.

Jennifer Gilley, 43, of East Liberty, said she see the police on her street often and wants to learn about what they do.

“I would just like to know more about them, develop a better relationship with them,” she said.

Harrison said the neighborhood has changed as a result of development, and she would like to see that continue. Lando said violent crime in that neighborhood has dropped.

Dates and times have not been set for Zone 1 and Zone 2 public safety meetings. Another meeting is set for Zone 6 on Aug. 30 at Brashear High School. Zone 4 will meet Sept. 15 at the Firefighters Union Hall in Hazelwood.

Read the Pittsburgh TribLive article at http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/11032045-74/zone-police-east