Citizen Review Board Public Debate

University of Pittsburgh

March 19, 1997

Should Pittsburgh Adopt a Citizen Police Review Board?


Billy Hileman, Joe Panzino and Sala Udin


Bianca Huff, Dan Onorato and Marshall Hynes



Gordon Mitchell: Greetings. My name is Gordon Mitchell. I work as the Director of Debate at the University of Pittsburgh. I want to start out by thanking the Department of Communication for helping to make this event possible. I want to thank our four outside advocates for taking time out of their very busy schedules to join us tonight to debate. And I also want to thank you, the members of the Pitt (and Pittsburgh) communities for coming out to participate as audience members. Thank you very much.

Increasingly legalistic nature of debate over police accountability

This Monday, over 40 very-well suited attorneys gathered in the chambers of U.S. Federal District Judge Robert Cindrich’s courtroom. They met there to debate and discuss a topic very similar to the one we gather here tonight to debate: the issue of police accountability. On Monday, as Judge Cindrich approached the bench, he looked out at the crowd and said, "There are so many lawyers in this room, it looks like an American Bar Association convention." When I first heard Judge Cindrich’s comments, I chuckled. But as I wondered about it more, I thought a little bit more and thought that maybe there was a little more to it than just a witty one-liner. As the discussion about police accountability becomes more and more legalistic, there is a danger that public deliberation about the role of police in Pittsburgh will be washed away in a sea of lawyers briefs, inundated by a tide of suits and counter-suits. The issue of the citizen police review board meets this question of expertise head-on. The issue ultimately pivots around the question of who should decide where to draw the boundary lines separating legitimate from excessive police force.

Debate and opposing viewpoints

Tonight, we are pursuing this question in a unique debate format that mixes policymakers with students, experts with citizens. At the William Pitt Debating Union, one of our goals is to sponsor, promote and amplify debates that feature this sort of interaction. One of the things that we firmly believe is that in order to adequately defend an argument, one must first frame it in relation to the other’s viewpoint. But before one can do this, it is first necessary to understand opposing viewpoints. We hope that tonight what occurs is a dialogue that begins to deepen public understanding of both sides of the issue, not to settle the CRB debate once and for all, but to spark an ongoing and productive dialogue and promote mutual understanding on both sides.

Importance of direct citizen involvement

Before I discuss the format for tonight’s debate, I want to mention a conversation I had earlier this week with Harry Liller; he’s a disabled veteran living in Bethel Park. Mr. Liller phoned me and told a story about his sister who had been beaten up by police several years ago. Mr. Liller said he wanted to come to the debate to ask a question to Marshall Hynes. I also talked with Amy Branch; she’s a student at Point Park College who lives in East Liberty. Several years ago, Amy and her sister also had negative experience with the police. But this experience has not made her completely anti-police, and she still has serious reservations about a citizen review board. She believes that citizens who serve on a CRB should be adequately qualified to judge police behavior. So she may have some important questions to ask Sala Udin, Billy Hileman, and Joe Panzino, the affirmative advocates for a CRB in tonight’s debate. We believe this kind of direct citizen involvement is precisely what the university should pursue and promote, and we are glad to offer a forum in which citizens like Mr. Liller and Ms. Branch can present their questions in an open public forum. We also want to improve our ability to put on public forums like this one in the future, so if you have feedback or suggestions for future topics of debate, or if you’d like to get more directly involved with the William Pitt Debating Union as an active member or a contact, please pick up and fill out one of the information sheets available at the outside table right outside this room

Role of personal testimonials

As a preface to a discussion of the format, I wanted to point out that in preparing for this debate, we’ve been studying public comment on the CRB for months, and one thing that has stood out in our research is the prominence of testimonials and personal experiences in previous public forums. Council member Udin’s hearings on the CRB were dominated by folks who came out to tell their stories about police; good and bad. These personal experiences are powerful, and they are crucial components of the public discussion. Tonight, we have reserved time for folks to share their personal experiences, have them recorded on videotape, and have them included in the complete transcript of the debate. The time for this will start after the conclusion of the debate, when we will run two video cameras and have an opportunity for audience members to share such testimonials. The reason we want to mark off a separate time for story-telling is to enhance the pace and focus of audience questions to the debaters during the debate. If audience members can limit their questions to 60 seconds during the question-and-answer period we can maximize the number of voices included in the discussion, as well as explore the points raised by the advocates in more depth and detail.

Discussion of format and introduction of debaters

The format for the debate proceeds along three stages. In the first stage, there will be opening speeches and questions from a panel of students that are involved in the William Pitt Debating Union. Each of these students has been researching the CRB issue for months, and they also participated as advocates themselves in previous public debates that we held on the CRB last month. They are, from my left to right, Christolyn Carter, Chris Boback, and Jesse Richman. In the second stage of the debate, we will open up the floor for questions from audience members, and we’ll spend roughly 30-45 minutes on that stage of the debate. Questions from the audience should be roughly 60 seconds long, and we’ll allow a two minute reply from the debaters receiving questions. In the third stage of the debate, we will have three minute closing arguments presented by each debater, following roughly the same rotation as the first stage. Now I’d like to introduce the participants in tonight’s debate. On the affirmative side, first we have Joe Panzino, a senior majoring in Communication at the University of Pittsburgh. To his right, we have Billy Hileman, who is the Assistant Treasurer for Citizens for Police Accountability. He did a lot of the research behind the petition calling for establishment of a citizen review board. And to his right, we have Sala Udin, Pittsburgh City Council member and member of District 6 in the Pittsburgh City Council. Mr. Udin drafted legislation in city council calling for establishment of a citizen review board. On the negative, we have, first of all in the middle, Dan Onorato. He is a member of Pittsburgh City Council, District 1. Mr. Onorato voted against the CRB proposal in city council. To his right, we have Marshall "Smokey" Hynes, the President of the Fraternal Order of Police, Fort Pitt Lodge #1, and finally, over to the left, Bianca Huff, sophomore majoring in Communication at the University of Pittsburgh. Now I’m pleased to turn the floor over to Joe Panzino, senior at the University of Pittsburgh, for the opening speech in the debate. Please welcome Joe Panzino.

STAGE ONE: Opening Speeches

First affirmative opening speech

Joe Panzino

Senior, University of Pittsburgh

Joe Panzino: Thank you. Thank you ladies and gentlemen. Good evening. I want to express my thanks for coming out here tonight to take part in this most important debate. I will be advocating the affirmative position for a citizen review board. In recent times, discussion of consent decrees submitted by the Justice Department, and increased visibility of police violence has left police reforms as being one of the more significant issues to face the Pittsburgh area in recent years. Tonight you’ll hear a number of very impassioned arguments on both sides of the fence, truly from individuals who believe very strongly in their particular points of view. As you consider these arguments, I’d ask that you listen for a number of things: First, which of these things moves us closer toward improving relations between community law enforcement here in Pittsburgh? Second, what safeguards will be employed by those actions that protect the civil rights of all parties involved, regardless of their color, regardless of whether they are policemen or a citizen? And what will move us toward sparing us the additional and unnecessary violence that often spills over into our streets?

Need for permanent structural change

Recently, Commander McNeilly proposed a number of changes which we certainly applaud; they were certainly efforts in the right direction. However, we feel that these changes have not gone far enough. In addition, we only see those as still in the discussion stage at this point. We see a consent decree having been filed by the Justice Department in federal court. We feel too that this is a very strong step in the right direction, but this perhaps is still not far enough. We want a citizens’ voice central in determining appropriate guidelines for law enforcement in the Pittsburgh area. Police reform is not a new issue for Pittsburgh. It seems to arise every decade, once the public becomes so frustrated with mounting abuses that it demands reforms. We need permanent, formal, structural change that will last long after politicians and police commanders have retired and gone by. I don’t feel the need to justify this idea of citizen review. All one needs to do is to go through this room and I’m sure there are hundreds of stories that will help convince us that it’s truly a need. During council hearings last year, an overwhelming amount of stories were presented regarding abuse, misconduct, and impunity on behalf of the police department. And during that time we found that our opposition closed their ears to our pleas and closed their minds to a true sense of justice.

Officers’ rights and collective bargaining

In recent weeks I’ve heard a number of arguments from the FOP regarding officers’ rights. I’d have to ask the question to the FOP tonight whether or not they have forgotten that they are in fact a collective bargaining unit for public service. We don’t believe a union agreement should ever override an individual’s civil rights. We also don’t believe that excessive force and violence toward an innocent individual is a point for collective bargaining.

Unsustained and anonymous complaints

We’ve heard an FOP argument regarding unsustained complaints remaining in police officers’ files. We’ve heard discussion of anonymous complaints (hopefully not to be allowed in the process of review). But I submit to you that police routinely use tips and informants, soliciting them openly that lead to investigations and arrests. Even when an individual is arrested, goes to trial and is completely exonerated, the effort has cost them several thousands of dollars. The effort has also been considerably humiliating and a police record remains behind them, and these individuals have no union to help out. We hear the FOP saying they want a different body of law to apply to the police than apply to citizens.

FOP slapsuits

When we file petitions with almost twenty thousand signatures, the FOP slapped a lawsuit to invalidate 9,500 of them. When a decree was filed in federal court, a lawsuit was filed immediately to dismiss the action. For those of you who don’t know, this tactic, it’s called "slapsuits." Police unions across the country have successfully used it when reforms are being addressed. The intent is to frustrate individuals and groups who speak up regarding reform. The situation today is that ten officers were dismissed. That’s less than half of one percent of all the complaints received during the same time period. Eight of the ten police officers were involved in complaints involving assault and excessive force. Six are already back to work on technicalities, through FOP representation. We believe that this city needs a citizen review board. We find it interesting that the Constitution sought to place military under the guidance of an elected civilian official, for the very same reasons that we talk about a citizen review board here this evening. We need a citizen review board. Thank you very much.


Gordon Mitchell: Joe, if you could take two minutes of questions from the student panel.

Jesse Richman: At the close of your speech, you said we need a citizen review board in order to have civilian oversight of the police. It might be possible to argue that the mayor and other civilian city employees provide that oversight. How would you deal with that argument?

Joe Panzino: One of the important things about citizen review boards across the country has been their autonomy; their detachment from the official structure that currently reviews police activities. So we’re looking to go outside of that structure of OMI, the mayor’s office, and the current city administration to put a citizen review board together.

Chris Boback: In your speech, you mentioned slapsuits taking place on the part of the police union. How will the citizen review board handle problems such as these?

Joe Panzino: Well, citizen review boards, one of the most significant things about their effectiveness is the transparency that’s created. It becomes very difficult to try and keep those kinds of things behind closed doors once the review process begins to take place. We are also proposing that the actions of the citizen review board be opened to what one might call the sunshine laws of the past.

Jesse Richman: How would board members be chosen for the review board, and how would we know if those members were being non-partial, would be non-biased?

Joe Panzino: Well, I think picking the right people for the job is the key here, but I mean I have a structure; I certainly have not conferred with other members of the affirmative team, but I would envision a 4 to 5 citizen-type group being nominated by the city council and confirmed by the mayor’s office. I would also envision a citizen review board including a representative of the FOP and a representative of the police department, including the auditor that the federal government has just recommended as part of the consent decree.

First negative opening speech

Bianca Huff

Sophomore, University of Pittsburgh

Gordon Mitchell: Please welcome, opening for the negative, the first speaker, Bianca Huff, a sophomore majoring in Communication at the University of Pittsburgh.

Bianca Huff: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. To begin with, I’d like to go over a few fine points I would like to address in my speech. Number one, I will address that citizen review boards across this nation have not been effective. And number two, that a citizen review board in Pittsburgh will not get the larger issue, which is that the police department itself must change these patterns of the use of excessive force. Now, I may not agree with all the ideas the negative side will express tonight. All I can say is that I do not personally believe that there should be a citizen review board in the city of Pittsburgh. I don’t think it will deal with the issue of the use of excessive force.

Another political machine

Now my own speech talks about citizen review boards across the nation, and their ineffective nature. These problems can also be blamed on police departments itself, as I think it probably would be, but I think that should have been a foreseen problem. Now, I think a lot of people are jumping on the bandwagon because they feel that this is the right thing to do. It must be good because it’s against the police department. A citizen review board places us in an us-against-them position. I’ve found that boards are placing decisions back into the hands of city officials, and that it’s not giving it to the citizens to deal with these problems of police brutality. It has the potential to become another political machine and the city of Pittsburgh doesn’t need another political machine. I’m asking you tonight to listen to me not because I’m Black or because I’m female. I’m asking you to listen to me because I’m a concerned citizen. I do not believe there should be a citizen review board in Pittsburgh.

Washington, D.C. board

First, I’d like to go to the citizen review board in Washington, D.C. This board has been ineffective for 15 years and the board is made up of about five or six people, just like the board Joe suggested, and it has a 700 case backlog right now. This is about the longest running board in the nation. Now with this backlog, these people waited 15 years to be heard and honestly I’m surprised that most citizens could remember complaints after 15 years. The board was finally abolished in 1995 by the D.C. council itself.

Philadelphia board

Now I’d like to move on to the Philadelphia board. Actually the city of Pittsburgh brought in the Philadelphia board. I guess no one told the people of Pittsburgh that out of 296 cases heard, discipline was only recommended in one case. There shouldn’t even be a board here to handle just one police officer. Now the police officers there could be just really honest and the board may not have been needed, but I don’t believe that and I don’t expect anyone to believe that either.

Charleston board

There’s also Charleston, where citizens wanted a board and they got it, all right. They got a board who refused to disclose the findings on any investigations held against police officers. They refused to disclose the findings to the citizens themselves who the board was supposed to help. This type of board is a real possibility given the opposition to a citizen review board in Pittsburgh.

San Francisco and New York boards

And then there’s San Francisco and New York, boards in two different places on two different sides of this nation. The citizens are protesting in both cities. But the citizens are protesting their own boards. Why? Because in New York, they found a lot of corruption surrounding the citizen review board, and this also could be blamed on police officers, but I truly do not believe so; I think this was wasted money to have this board in the first place. And in San Francisco people are dissatisfied with the findings of the board. The citizen review board in Pittsburgh has been presented as a solution to all the problems, but it’s only a solution to one police officer, or two police officers being disciplined; it’s not a solution to all our problems. A police department is just that; it’s a department, a collective unit that shares one mindset. A citizen review board will only allow you to seek investigation of only a few officers at a time, not addressing the real problem of excessive force and how it must be stopped in the police department. There has to be future education on the part of police officers. Thank you.

Gordon Mitchell: Questions from the student panel.

Christolyn Carter: Yes, Bianca, you spoke about the negative effects of CRBs in other cities. There’s never been a CRB in Pittsburgh, so how can you say that this would happen to Pittsburgh? And also, if there is not a CRB, what would be an alternate solution?

Bianca Huff: Well, on the first part of your question, when we decided to research this issue, I thought, OK, now where should I go to find out if a CRB works? I think that’s the first thing you should do when you propose something. So I went, and I researched, and I saw that these things, these boards were ineffective in other parts of the nation. And for the second part, it’s been proposed that we need further education, and I agree with this. But it’s also a problem that needs to be addressed within the police department. It cannot be an us-against-them situation, and I think that’s where a CRB goes wrong.

Jesse Richman: In your research, did you find any civilian review boards which were working?

Bianca Huff: Yes, I did. I found out that the civilian review board in New Orleans is working. The problem with this is that New Orleans is so broad with corruption that any institution that was put there would be better than what they were dealing with at the time. Now, I don’t believe that Pittsburgh is so broadly corrupt that we need the same thing.

Chris Boback: You speak of these problems with boards across the nation. Is it not likely that these problems are not inherent in the concept of a board, but just in the way a board is set up, or the way the board is run, and could not these problems be alleviated by Pittsburgh setting up a board to meet its own needs?

Bianca Huff: I think the only way a citizen review board would work would be in a utopian society, where this would be set up, and this would help citizens and it would deter police brutality. But I don’t think that we live in a utopian society, and I think we can think about it all we want to, and we can suggest it to be shaped around the city of Pittsburgh, but it probably won’t work.


Second affirmative opening speech

Sala Udin

Pittsburgh City Council

Gordon Mitchell: Now, please welcome Councilman Sala Udin, who will deliver the affirmative side’s second opening speech.

Sala Udin: Good evening. First of all, let me encourage us to peel away the artichoke leaves and get down to the core of it; to focus in on what we’re talking about, because this topic can get so broad that we lose sight of what we’re really talking about. When we focus in on the heart of what we’re discussing, we’re talking about a decision that this city has to make to decide how we, as a society, will elect to deal with citizen complaints against police misconduct. That is the issue. How will we deal with citizen complaints of police misconduct. Will we handle them and investigate them with an internal body controlled by the police? Or will they be investigated and handled by an external body of citizens? That’s the whole discussion. That’s it. And that’s our decision. Don’t let anybody clog and camouflage and obfuscate and confuse you with other issues and with misinformation called research.

History of the question

The history of this question goes back to several decades ago when citizens’ complaints were handled by an internal board of policemen, an internal board called the trial board. That was objected to because it was too obvious, and then they tried to add some citizens to the trial board and came up with the Office of Professional Standards. It was a citizenized police trial board, but still internal to the police department, and controlled by the police. After continued criticism of that process, now we have the Office of Municipal Investigations, still a police-controlled process of investigating your complaints against police misconduct.

• FOP pressure to reinstate disciplined officers

The long list of officers who have been placed back on duty, primarily through the efforts of the FOP, they don’t care what an officer has done; they’ll put any officer back on duty. But that is the problem. The police force has been unwilling or unable to police itself. But this has nothing to do with effective policing. We’re talking about officers who oftentimes have been convicted of something like a deviant sex offense, and FOP gets them put back on, or drug dealing, and FOP gets them back on, or beating somebody to a pulp with their hands cuffed behind their back, and the FOP gets them put back on. That’s what we’re talking about in many of these cases. It’s not an officer energetically pursuing law enforcement. That’s television. We’re talking about assault and battery; criminal activity against you citizens. That is oftentimes the basis of citizen complaints, and the FOP unconditionally, uncritically defends, to put them back. And when you try to act, in your own interest, democratically, collect petitions to get it put on the ballot, conservatives on City Council vote down your right to have the issue put on the ballot. Vote it down. You don’t even have the right to put it on the ballot. And then when we get the petition, they slap-suit, frivolous lawsuits, which they’re going to lose. They’re going to lose. To try to prevent us from having it on the ballot. Why don’t they want you to vote? Why don’t they want you to vote on it? Ask them, why don’t they want you to vote on your own decision about how we as a society will handle our own citizen complaints?

Board member qualifications

Yes, we need to be fair. The citizen review board needs to be qualified, just like any body of citizens. The Pittsburgh Human Relations Commission is composed of citizens. But before you place too high of standards and qualifications of the review board, check out the qualifications that it takes to become a police officer. Do their qualifications have to be higher for their police officers? Somehow they have managed to figure out how to learn the law; it shouldn’t be too hard for you to do so. I don’t think you need more than a high school education to become a police officer. So it’s not difficult. It’s very simple. Keep your eye on the prize. Thank you.



Gordon Mitchell: Questions from the student panel, please.

Board impact on police-community relations

Jesse Richman: With all due apologies for turning partially to the misinformation called research, I wonder what impact you expect the board to have on relations between civilians and police officers, which is part of the larger question. I’m sorry to call you out to the larger question, but ...

Sala Udin: The primary purpose of a review process is to provide a mechanism to educate and correct deviations from the standard policy and procedures. When a police officer deviates from standard policy and procedure, someone has to be able to objectively and fairly identify the deviation, and help correct it, educate them, and get them back on course. That’s what the purpose is. It’s not punishment-oriented; it’s not intended to try to fire them, or prevent them from doing their job. It’s to correct deviation from the policies and procedures.

Counseling and education of officers

Chris Boback: Do you have specific plans for correcting those deviations, and if you do, could you briefly ...

Sala Udin: Primarily it has to do with re-education; it may have to do with counseling. These officers are under tremendous pressure. I would think a system of more frequent stress checks. I think, if I had to work in this kind of environment, I would want my stress level checked more often than once every ten years. That kind of correction, of employment assistance, counseling, et cetera, there are many ways we can help keep officers on course. It’s a very difficult job and they need all the support they can get.

Gordon Mitchell: Thank you very much.

Sala Udin: Thank you.


Second negative opening speech

Marshall "Smokey" Hynes

Fraternal Order of Police

Gordon Mitchell: Now we move to the second negative speaker, who will address us for five minutes, Marshall "Smokey" Hynes.

Marshall Hynes: Hi ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for asking me here. I’m the monster that everybody’s talking about. Let me tell you the preparation I’ve done on this case. We’re so tight because of all of the slap law suits that we’re doing, I’ve asked my wife to give me some cards, give me some notes, I’ve got recipe cards I’m using. We are contesting all of these issues.

Misinformation and research

I’m glad you commented on misinformation called research. I don’t know how anyone could make that statement. Research gives information. There’s all sorts of things that had happened out there; without research, they couldn’t have gone forward. There were some allegations out there that out of the ten police officers, eight of them were fired because of excessive force. That’s an incorrect statement. I’ve got figures here, I believe it was four out of that. Two of those were reinstated because the facts were not there for those officers.

Current over-investigation of police force

It’s my contention that civilian review is not needed. The police department is currently investigated by OMI, the grand jury, the district attorney’s office, the state attorney general, the FBI, the Justice Department, human relations, and news media. That’s more people than investigate anybody else out there. We have sufficient civilian review of any actions the police officers take. If this [the CRB] is created, all it’s going to create is another layer of bureaucracy, another level in there where plum jobs can be created for people who earn them. What do you do when a civilian review board is put into effect, and they all come back and say every police officer was wrong? They lose their validity. What do you do if they come back and say every officer was right? They lose their credibility. A civilian review board is not necessary at this point.

• Cost issue

There’s the cost side of this. You have the mayor of the City of Pittsburgh saying we have no money. Philadelphia’s costs over one million, six hundred thousand. Washington, D.C., before they did away with it, because it didn’t work, was approximately two million dollars a year. And, as was previously brought forward, Philadelphia has got one case brought forward to its conclusion, and the investigation was so biased against the police, the mayor wouldn’t even handle it. It was a terribly biased investigation against police officers.

• Civilian control and current grievance procedures

One of things I’ve brought out in all of the areas I’ve been in front of, all of the groups I’ve been in front of, I’ve asked for fairness for the police officers. I went to all the hearings over the summer, and it was my contention that the police department does not have civilian review; they have civilian control, and that’s more important than civilian review. Right now, a police officer can have charges brought against him. We have a grievance procedure, and we have a tripartite procedure. In the grievance procedure, one civilian arbitrator makes the final determination of the guilt or innocence of that officer. In the tripartite panel, one from the FOP, one from the city, and a neutral third arbitrator, who makes that final decision. Civilian review would make recommendations that the Mayor could accept or reject; that would be up to them. In the grievance and arbitration process that we have right now, that arbitrator can say, ‘That officer’s fired.’ The Mayor can say, ‘I want the officer suspended for 30 days.’ The arbitrator can say, ‘That’s not enough; I want him suspended for six months, or I want him terminated.’ That’s the power that the police department has right now.


• Professional expertise and qualifications

Lastly, I wonder how many people would criticize judges judging judges, nurses judging nurses, attorneys judging attorneys, because they have a particular interest, or a particular knowledge, in that case? For example, how many people here have had their hand stuck in the window of a car and been drug down the street at seventy miles per hour, when they were able to get the gun out and fire over their head through the roof of the car? How many people can say that’s excessive force? How many people have been spit on? How many people have chased a burglar and had a fight? When was the last fight anybody had here? There’s some police officers that will tell you ‘last week.’ What is excessive force? Only someone who has been there can make that determination. We have no problem with the grievance procedure, with the tripartite procedure, because if excessive force is alleged, then bring charges against the officer. I am not out there to save bad officers. If they’re bad, we’ll get rid of them. But don’t make that determination because you don’t like the color of their hair, or the color of their face, that they’re going to be terminated. Police are people. They have rights, and all I’ve tried to do is protect the rights of those officers. And I will continue to do it. They can call it slap suits, whatever it is, I do not have the right as the President of the Fraternal Order of Police to permit our officers’ rights to be violated. I will do whatever I can to protect those rights. Thank you.


Gordon Mitchell: Two minutes of questions from our student panel.

Tape-recorded statements

Christolyn Carter: Yes, I would like to go back to something you said, ‘Bring bad officers in and we’ll get rid of them.’ In yesterday’s Post-Gazette, you are quoted as saying you would never require an officer to give a tape-recorded statement despite the statement by the Office of Municipal Investigation that they should be taken. And I’d like to know why not. And also, Mr. Hynes, you seem to be concerned more with your officers than what is right. Case in point the ten officers that were fired, only one, Anthony Williams, various complaints of using excessive force, firing upheld, and the other nine are back on the force. Can you respond to that?

Marshall Hynes: Which question do you want me to answer first?

Christolyn Carter: Either one.

Marshall Hynes: The first one was ... what was the first one?

Christolyn Carter: Why you will not require ...

Marshall Hynes: Oh yes, tape recording. The way this new system is set up, and this is not civilian review. The rhetoric here is beyond civilian review; we’re talking here about the consent decree. They have made a determination that the police officer is mandated to give a tape-recorded statement; that’s a violation of federal wiretap laws, unless an officer agrees to it. The same interpretation, they do not require of civilians. You could go in there, and say ‘Officer Hynes, this and this and this ...’ but I’m not going to tape record that. Why would you expect me to say that it’s OK for the police to have to make a tape-recorded statement, but not you? That’s wrong. And as far as the people who were reinstated, maybe they were reinstated because they were innocent. Just because someone brings charges against police officers does not mean those events happened. I have gone down to the federal judge down there now, and I said don’t rule on the consent decree. If you feel these officers are so bad when these cases come to you, I will sign a consent decree if you feel they are that bad, because they are not that bad. These are frivolous cases that are brought and they’re totally wrong.

Gordon Mitchell: Thank you. That’s all the time we have, two minutes for questions.


Third affirmative opening speech

Billy Hileman

Citizens for Police Accountability

Gordon Mitchell: The third and final affirmative speech, Billy Hileman, Citizens for Police Accountability.

Billy Hileman: Hi my name is Billy Hileman, I’m a member of Citizens for Police Accountability. I am not a police officer, however, I’ve seen the videotape of Rodney King and I think I know what excessive force is. I’ve seen the autopsy photos of Jonny Gammage, and I think I know what excessive force is. And I’ve visited my friend Lance in the hospital, a hundred and twenty pound person with AIDS who was beaten by the Pittsburgh police, and I know what excessive force is.

Value of board’s preventive recommendations

I believe the creation of a citizen review board is the necessary first step in improving police-community relations in the city of Pittsburgh. No, it will not by itself end police misconduct. No one from our side ever claimed that it was a magic bullet. No one claimed that by itself, it would do this. But a civilian review board can do several things, including increase public confidence in police and increase the likelihood that incidences of excessive force will be objectively investigated. But the aspect of the CRB that I believe that will make the most important change in policing us the authority of the commission to make recommendations regarding police policy and procedures. It is fine to rid the bushel of bad apples, but we need to be able to reduce the chances of bad apples from showing up again. This has more to do with training of everyone than the targeting of individuals. There are numerous cases where review board recommendations have been followed, including creation of a rape unit in the Berkeley police department, a special domestic violence unit in Chicago, additional training in the use of firearms in responding to verbal challenges by the citizens of Cincinnati, and the implementation of new policies regarding high speed chases in San Francisco. Not only has the preventive recommendation aspect of civilian review been successful, but statistics support the premise that implementation of civilian review increases the number of sustained complaints compared to internal affairs investigations.

Unique features of Pittsburgh’s board

However, I think that research is partly hogwash also, and I believe that comparing the number of sustained cases from civilian review and internal police affairs investigations may not be a very meaningful way of assessing civilian oversight. First, because no two cities have civilian oversight of the same nature. The procedures from different cities differ in these ways. Some are only civilians taking complaints, others are where civilians take complaints and do the investigations, and others are where the police officers do the investigations. Some have no authority to make any recommendations, some have authority to make recommendations. Virtually none have any ability to mete out discipline. Almost no two civilian review boards are alike. We have looked at different cities and taken the best aspects of civilian review while respecting the integrity of mayoral powers in the home rule charter and the collective bargaining agreement between the FOP and the city of Pittsburgh. In fact, of the 65 cities and towns that have civilian oversight, only 38 percent have independent investigative power. But Pittsburgh’s CRB will have that power. Only a little more than one in three have subpoena power, but Pittsburgh’s CRB will have that power. Less than half, 46 percent, are empowered to hold public hearings, but Pittsburgh’s CRB will have that power. Only one in five have the power to implement mediation, but Pittsburgh will have that power. Washington, D.C. is indeed backlogged, but that’s because they’re required to investigate every phone call complaint that comes in. We’ve learned that from Washington, D.C., and we will not require our board to investigate every frivolous complaint that comes in, because our board will be intelligently trained to look for the ones that are important, because the purpose is to improve community-police relations.

Campaign of misinformation

Over the past year, the opposition to the CRB, led by Smokey Hynes and Dan Onorato have engaged in a campaign of misinformation about the proposed CRB. Onorato has claimed that no civilian review method has worked, including Philadelphia. But when the chair of the Philadelphia commission, Jay Dalton, and the board’s chief opponent, Philadelphia councilman Michael Nutter, were here in Pittsburgh, Onorato wasn’t there; neither was Cusick, neither was Hertzberg, neither was Ricciardi, neither was O’Connor. All five voted against the bill.

• Inadequacy of existing grievance procedure

Smokey Hynes says we already have civilian review. He points to the statutory grievance procedures that officers can fight dismissals and other disciplinary actions. But that is not what we are talking about here. If there is no way to get to the grievance procedure, because no charge is ever put against the police officer, then the whole line about the grievance procedure is totally a distraction. If Mr. Hynes were interested in an honest discussion of this issue, he would stop trying to confuse the public by passing on the FOP’s contract as civilian review.

• Opponents’ inconsistency

Hynes says civilians can’t investigate instances of police misconduct because they don’t know police procedures, and that officers shouldn’t have to worry about how a review board should rule on a particular action. But they can’t have it both ways. The review board cannot be ineffective, as Onorato says, and have untold power, as Hynes would say. And I’ll end here. The effectiveness of a CRB lies more in the incremental process of handling cases that would never go to court, and having citizen input on police matters, and creating an atmosphere where it is acceptable to question the police, and normal to discuss these issues of abuse of power and racism; discuss these issues openly and honestly, without all this reactivity. That is what they are against.


Gordon Mitchell: Two minutes of questions from the student panel.

• Board composition

Chris Boback: Who do you envision creating this board, putting together its policies and procedures, and who do you envision sitting on the board, making decisions, making recommendations.

Billy Hileman: Well the question that will be on the ballot May 20 calls for a seven-member board that would be appointed by the mayor, and the mayor would receive a list of recommendations from city council. Now it would be the job of you and me and community activists to make sure that our representation on council would nominate someone who we would like to see on the board. When the board is established, the board would create its own procedures of review, and most likely it would follow the outlines that are in the Home Rule Charter for the Human Relations Commission, which is the only commission that has much detail about it in the Home Rule Charter.

Gordon Mitchell: Thank you very much.



Third negative opening speech

Dan Onorato

Pittsburgh City Council

Gordon Mitchell: Now to close out the opening arguments, we have the third negative speaker, council member Dan Onorato.

Dan Onorato: Thank you. I’m glad that I have the opportunity to speak tonight, and I’m going to change what I was going to say because of some of the speeches I’ve heard tonight. You’ve heard more misinformation tonight than I’ve heard in this entire debate the last six months, and I’m going to point out why. You know how hard it is to stand up and say your against civilian review? It isn’t civilian review. And it’s disinformation when you look at other cities to see if it’s effective.

Failure of boards in other cities

It’s been disastrous in other cities. Because the reason is, the problem we are trying to solve can’t be solved by a civilian review board. What these cities have discovered, once they implement a civilian review board, the people who have screamed the loudest thought they were getting something they weren’t getting. And after a few years, the results were exactly the same as before a civilian review board. And the same people screaming for a civilian review board in these cities were the ones screaming to repeal it. Minneapolis is the most recent city to repeal it now; some of the professors from the law school up there who pushed for it are leading the charge to repeal it.

Defense of Marshall Hynes

Here’s where I’m going to deviate, because I thought this was going to be a healthy discussion, but I think it’s a disgrace some of the disinformation that you’ve heard tonight, and I’m going to tell you what the disinformation is. Disinformation: To accuse this gentleman over here [gestures to Marshall Hynes] of representing police officers after they’ve been fired is ridiculous. He’s the president of the FOP. He’s the president of the union. That’s his job. To try to cloud that and say that he doesn’t care about good police work, that’s his job. He has to represent them. If those police officers get back on the force, you can blame the mayor’s office for bungling the way that they’ve been charged, but don’t blame him; he didn’t do it.

Justice Department report / ACLU lawsuit

Other disinformation: How many people here think that the Justice Department sent a report to Pittsburgh to say that our police department is out of control? I thought they did. You know what, there’s no report. There’s not even a three-page letter criticizing the police department. All misinformation from the press in this town, because a lot of people are standing up saying how bad the Justice Department says things are going on. What exists? They sent one letter saying ‘We want to sit down with you, city, because we know that there are problems; we want to discuss it.’ One letter. They had a meeting on Friday, they talked about a consent decree. There is no report. Misinformation. Other misinformation: the ACLU lawsuit. How convenient that the ACLU all of the sudden finds ten more plaintiffs every week to keep in on the front page as we head in to the debate and the voting on the civilian review board, if it makes the ballot.

Petition unfair to City Council

But here’s the big misinformation tonight, and I’m sorry that this came up tonight, because it really is unfair to me and my colleagues. Yes, I voted against putting this on the ballot, but you know why? Because the city of Pittsburgh has a Home Rule Charter. There’s two ways to address an issue. You put it on the ballot for the people to vote, or council decides to take it up and have hearings, and debate it, and make a vote. I spent seven months last summer. I didn’t miss one public hearing in every neighborhood in this city. My colleagues who sponsored this bill took the risk of losing this vote. Well it came to a vote after seven months, and it failed, 5-4. To then turn around and get petitioned, and I voted no, because there are two processes and we picked one. And to imply that I’m against equal rights to vote is an insult to me. I respect this system more than anybody, and I respect the process more than anybody.

• Mayoral election as civilian review

You want to talk about civilian review and oversight? It is the mayor. He is in charge of the police force; he is elected by you, the citizens of Pittsburgh. Just like the president of United States, as mentioned earlier, is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. You want civilian review? It’s called an election every four years; it’s a referendum on the mayor’s office. If you don’t like what he’s doing or how he’s doing it? Throw him or her out.

Appearance at public hearings

More misinformation, and a pesonal attack by Mr. Hileman, which I think is unfortunate: he tells you I didn’t want to participate in the Philadelphia hearings. Once again, five of us decided we didn’t want to hear any more. It was seven months. We were ready to vote. We said call the vote. My colleagues had a right to bring these individuals in. We weren’t going to hear any more, and wanted to hear the vote. But to imply that I wasn’t present at a public debate or public hearing ... seven months. And I think there were three of us who could claim, out of the nine, that sat through every public hearing, and I’m one of those three. And I can tell you right now, I will continue to vote against this, because not only will it discourage the public after it fails, but we can’t just whip around the police department without having people prove [their points].

Credibility of ACLU plaintiffs

One final piece of misinformation tonight. I too saw the Rodney King tape. I too saw the Jonny Gammage. I also know that is not the city of Pittsburgh, and they were not city of Pittsburgh police officers. So don’t just throw out facts and sort of give half truths; let’s talk about it. And remember, the ACLU lawsuit is only allegations as we speak today. I haven’t seen one thing proven in court. I’m sure some of the allegations are true, but I can tell you I know three individuals out of the sixty that are on there; I wouldn’t trust anything they say, because I know their background, and I know they aren’t telling the whole story. So there’s two sides to every story, and believe me, I want good policing as much as you do, but I think that civilian review is the wrong way to go, and it’s going to backfire.


New strategies to improve police accountability

Christolyn Carter: I just want to correct you; there are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth. I think that’s what we’re overlooking here when we talk about the police. What about the 1,600 complaints that came through the city controller’s office as of two months ago? Sixteen hundred people can’t be wrong. And councilman Onorato, you haven’t dealt with the issue of what can be done with these policeman with the background of abuse and excessive force, and just a misdemeanor. Do you think police are above the law?

Dan Onorato: No. Actually, I want to tell you. I gave five names to the mayor that I thought he should fire. The mayor asked me what do you think we should do when this debate was going on? I said, ‘You want to send a signal to the city of Pittsburgh? You stand up and show them you’re going to fire someone for excessive abuse.’ We know who they are. There are a few bad apples. But it didn’t happen. I’m not the Mayor of this town. And I’ll answer, what should we do? I’ve stated over and over, here are some changes we can make. Boston has implemented a tracking system which red flags an officer after three complaints. It automatically goes to the mayor’s desk. We should implement that. We were still dealing with handwritten records. We should computerize the system. They also talked about increased training for officers, which we just started. To eliminate the ability of the Public Safety Director to overturn findings from the Office of Municipal Investigation; we should eliminate that. Citizens Police Academy, which was just implemented. And we should continue with the COP program, which puts the officers back into the neighborhood all day, as opposed to just showing up when there’s a problem, so they can start building rapport with the citizens of Pittsburgh.

Gordon Mitchell: One more question?

FOP role in reducing police violence

Jesse Richman: Do you believe that the Fraternal Order of Police is currently playing a constructive role in efforts to reduce police violence?

Dan Onorato: I believe that the FOP is doing what the FOP has to do. I’m not the FOP. I’m an elected councilman; I’ve got to do what councilpeople have to do, the mayor has to do what the mayor has to do. I’m not going to sit here and say that the Mayor should come in and not defend the city, or that Smokey Hynes should not defend the police if he’s the President of the FOP, and I shouldn’t worry about the finances of the city with these lawsuits because I’m a councilman, we receive a budget. We all have our role in society as far as what we’re supposed to do. I think even if the 1,600 complaints are filed, the police officers, whether we like it or not, police officers are entitled to due process. Even if they’re all wrong, they’re entitled to due process. And, a lot of them are probably going to be found guilty, and if they are, then we should fire them. But we just can’t say that because there’s an allegation, it’s the truth. There’s a due process that we have to follow. Smokey Hynes is the President of the FOP; he has to do what he has to do, I have to do what I have to do.


STAGE TWO: Audience questions

Gordon Mitchell: Now we move into stage two of the debate, audience questions. If we could move the microphone from the podium over to the aisle there, audience members can line up behind the podium and in turn, ask questions. Please limit your questions to roughly sixty seconds, and if you direct your question to a specific debater or side, please identify that debater or side.

FOP commitment to discipline officers

Audience question: My name is Harry Liller, I’m for the police civilian review board. The first point now, Mr. Onorato, Jonny Gammage was murdered inside the city limits, so you can do all your lawyering stuff and hide from that situation. But my question is for Mr. Hynes. How do you discipline police officers who commit brutal acts? And I’d also like you to tell the audience what you’ve done in the past week concerning police officers who were fired by Chief McNeilly? That’s my question.

Marshall Hynes: What do I do with disciplining police officers? If they’re bad, I will vote to have them fired, but I will do it properly. All the t’s will be crossed, all the i’s will be dotted. As far as what I’ve done? We have presented a proposal to the city on a code of conduct. We, meaning the FOP, have presented a whole new discipline process to the city to discipline police officers, and all it stresses is fairness for the police officer. If they’re wrong, they should be disciplined. But just because you say Jonny Gammage was killed in the city of Pittsburgh, does not mean that was anything more than a terrible, tragic accident ...

[audience grumble]

And that’s all that was. And that should not be an issue for debate here. That’s not civilian review.

Harry Liller: That’s part of it ...

Gordon Mitchell: Thank you.

Dan Onorato: I just want to comment; he said my name, I want to point out, alls I said was Jonny Gammage was not attacked by city of Pittsburgh police officers, and I’ll stand by that comment.

Harry Liller: And I’ll stand by mine.

Gordon Mitchell: Thank you very much. Could we have another question, please?

Mayoral election as form of civilian review

Audience question: Mr. Onorato, first I have a comment, my name is David Hughes. I’ve watched you on this issue for a long time. I’ve seen you on WTAE with Sheldon Ingram, and I’d just like to say that I really think you are disingenuous, and I don’t think you answer the questions. I’d like you to stick to the issues. And I’d like you to answer this question. You just said, we have civilian review, it’s called the mayor, and if you have a problem with the police, fire the mayor. But that only comes every four years. But then you proceeded to say, ‘I thought there were four or five police that should be fired, and I went to the mayor and told him to fire them, and he didn’t do it.’ Now to me, that seems like a contradiction. Do you really expect people who can’t go to the mayor and make suggestions like you do to wait four years to get someone investigated who bashed their head in?

Dan Onorato: Well if I can respond, I changed my speech tonight, because the other speakers on the negative side addressed all the factual concerns about other cities. I don’t want to reiterate them, and I have them right here, about Philadelphia, San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C., so I didn’t go that route. I was responding to some comments that I think are disinformation. And my comment about the mayor; when this debate was going on, he asked me why I was against the civilian review board, and he felt what I thought would work to show that the system could work. And I’ll stand by what I said before. If the system is going to work, with the mayor as the head civilian, and head of the police department, and the way it works when any complaint is filed, it goes up the chain, on and on, up to the Director of Public Safety, then it goes to the mayor’s desk. The mayor has the ultimate say in punishing. If the mayor would fire someone that a complaint has been sustained for excessive abuse, I personally believe that one firing would send a bigger signal to this city that he’s not going to tolerate that. If you’re not going to do that, then no one’s going to believe that it’s going to work. Just like if you had civilian review, the ultimate person giving the punishment is the same person; it’s going to be this mayor or the next mayor. If that doesn’t change, that’s why civilian review boards aren’t working, because you don’t change who does the punishment; it still goes to the same person.

David Hughes: If the mayor doesn’t do anything, then what do you do?

Dan Onorato: The mayor doesn’t do anything, that unfortunately, you have to wait four years. But that is your ultimate oversight ...

David Hughes: So you have to wait every four years?

Gordon Mitchell: Mr. Onorato, would you like to answer the question? Do you have an additional point to make?

Dan Onorato: No.

Mayor’s appointment power

Audience question: My name is Jonathan Seaver and I’m a resident of Oakland. Reading the question that would be on the ballot, it’s unclear in the wording that three of the seven would be appointed by the mayor. This is directed to the city councilmen. But if, in fact, we do have a civilian review board, can you give me some rationale, for or against, why they should be appointed by the mayor, even if four of the seven are part of a nomination process from city council? Because if in fact in this situation, if the mayor is unresponsive to citizen complaints about excessive force from the police department, why would a citizen review board that is ultimately appointed by the mayor be effective?

Sala Udin: First of all, the City Charter governs how boards and commissions are formed. The City Charter requires that all the members of this body would be appointed by the mayor. The way we tried to build in an element of council review is to have council submit a list of nine names to the mayor, so that four of the seven that he picks would come from that list. So it’s a City Charter issue, more than anything. Was there a second part to your question?

Jonathan Seaver: Well, if in fact the mayor is part of the problem ...

Sala Udin: Well first of all, if I could speak to that, I think most recently, especially since Chief McNeilly has been on the force, the mayor has been, and the Chief have been making an effort to fire police officers who should be fired. The problem is I think the next frontier that we will have to confront after citizen review, and that is the grievance arbitration system that allows officers who are guilty of some of the most heinous offenses to be put back on the force, with back pay, with their guns, back in hand, on the street to patrol again. That is a problem that will not be solved by the citizen police review board, but is an issue that needs to be confronted.

Dan Onorato: And I’ll just add, first of all, I agree with the councilman what he said about the Home Rule Charter; it is a constraint on how you select any board. At the same time, it’s one of the problems, which is what you’re pointing out. But it still stays within the political arena, who sits on the board; the question is how many the council selects, versus how many the mayor picks. But the important thing that councilman Udin and I agree on is that this mayor has made some changes with the new police chief, and sensitivity training, and just new programs. We’re only coming up on twelve months in place, so really haven’t had a chance to see the results yet. And I agree with Councilman Udin on one other point. You don’t think it disgusts me some of the officers that got back on? It sure does. But the point that I made earlier is that the fact that they got back on through the process that’s there, I’m not going to criticize the gentleman who is required to defend them to do it; it’s the system that got them back on, and that’s what we should be criticizing at this point.

Distrust of police officers

Audience question: My comment is direct toward Mr. Hynes. Due to the accumulation of evidence, I have grown a distrust and resentfulness to most police officers. I was wondering what kind of advice could you offer someone like myself?

Marshall Hynes: Basically, what we’re trying to do is, we’re coming to these things. When I was going around to all those meetings, and I got stoned a lot last summer over attending those meetings ...


And that’s a fact. The one thing that stood out in all of that was that there’s a terrible, terrible lack of communications between the police department and the community. What I would like the mayor and the Chief of Police to do is get a public relations committee going there, because there’s a lot of good things ... I know some of the advocates of this feel that this is incorrect ... but the police do a lot of good things. They are out there trying to help the community. Right now, Pittsburgh is the fifth-best city to live in the country. If we’re so bad, how can that be so? The police are not running around abusing people’s rights, regardless of what people want you to think. All I’m trying to tell you is, we are trying to communicate. I’m willing to sit down here, and I’m willing to say, the police have a side. You don’t necessarily have to agree. But I at least want you to know what our side of that particular issue is. And I think the main thing that hopefully I can get through tonight would be, maybe somewhere down the road, we could get a better communication set up between the community and the police department, because that’s really necessary, because people say things, and these things keep building up and building up, and if no one comes out and explains the police side of it, whether they agree with it or not, then everybody says the police are wrong. I say we need to communicate more and that’s what we’re doing and hopefully we can do that.

Gordon Mitchell: Thank you.

Professionalizing police

Sala Udin: If I could comment just briefly?

Gordon Mitchell: Briefly.

Sala Udin: I would just like to take the opportunity to agree with an aspect of what Mr. Hynes has just said, relative to whether this issue could be framed as anti-police or pro-police. I want to go on record as being pro-police. I’m pro-police. And the work that I’m trying to do is an effort to help strengthen and professionalize police. But I don’t think you strengthen or professionalize any group, any profession, with uncritical acceptance of any kind of behavior. I think you have to have supervision, and you have to have corrections when deviations occur. So this is a pro-police measure.

FOP review of petition signatures

Audience question: My name is Tony Butro, I’m a former member of the Social Workers Election Campaign. I’m a member of the United Steelworkers, and I don’t believe the Fraternal Order of Police are a union, number one. But I don’t think the Nuremburg defense is the defense that should be used here, yes, they’re doing their job, I was only just doing my job. See, I think there’s a silent figure here, that’s Jonny Gammage, and I don’t think there would have been a discussion around the civilian review board in this town if it were not for this dramatic example of the unleashing of unrestrained police violence against the citizen. I think it happened long before, and it will happen long after, even with a civilian review board. I think what the Fraternal Order of Police did, and I would like to ask the panelists their opinion on this, in going over the signatures, we have a right to not have our names to be reviewed, to have our addresses be reviewed by the police. I’m not a supporter of the civilian review board, but I believe this is a serious violation of our rights.


Marshall Hynes: I guess I should answer that, since I’m the one who decided to appeal that. The system is in place where petitions can be submitted. I’m exercising the same system by saying these petitions should be appropriate. I don’t know whether there’s going to be enough there or not. If there is, then we’ll deal with it on election day. But to criticize me because I’m saying well, Joan Smith shouldn’t sign Joan Smith, Henry Smith, Michael Smith, Paul Smith, and Alexander Smith. That’s a fraud. If Joan Smith is down there, Joan Smith can say ‘I want civilian review, here’s my name and address.’ She should not sign her husband, her aunt, her uncle, and make up a bunch of other names. And that’s what we’re testing. Once again, the police are criticized for saying if you have those petitions out there, then you get ten thousand, but you get ten thousand that are correct. I don’t think I’m too wrong about that. I think whatever party you would belong to would say the same thing--give them due process of law. They’re using the system against us, well we’re going to put this on the ballot, but because I can test it, once again, I’m the bad guy. What I’m saying, you’ve got ten thousand names? Be right. That doesn’t seem like a violation of the system.

Gordon Mitchell: That was an open-ended question; is there a response from the other side?

Sala Udin: Yes, the biggest fraud is the FOP challenge of the petition. It is true that once you sign a public petition, and I think you should keep this in mind, you are taking a risk that others will review your information. It becomes a public document, it’s filed with the Department of Elections, and that risk does exist. And we just have to be ever-vigilant that that right that we have to express that democratic expression is never violated. But it is a risk indeed, you’re right.

Gordon Mitchell: Thank you.

Jury review system

Audience question: My question is for Mr. Udin, I hope I pronounced that right. I’m a supporter of the civilian review board. My question stems from something I discussed in my social movement class; if we had a civilian review board that was just picked by council, and just be appointed, and not have anything to do with voting, then it would just become part of the hierarchy, come in a couple years or even just one year, that would work with the DA’s office on a daily basis. My question to you is something that was proposed in class, it might work just as well if not better if there was a jury process how all citizens would be on the board, and people would not be biased in a particular case. How do you feel about that?

Sala Udin: That’s an interesting concept, and that’s something I would certainly be open to looking at and exploring. We have an open jury system that seems to work in the court system; it’s rotating. However, one disadvantage to that is that police policy and procedure, and the handling of rules of evidence and investigation can be kind of technical sometimes, and what you miss in having a rotating body like that is the continuity that you would gain from a body of consistency. You always have something that you give up. But I think it’s an interesting concept that needs to be explored.

Audience member: I understand that, but the whole process then would be, the judge, anyone could tell them, ‘Hey, you know, this is something to look for,’ to give them suggestions. And it’s just a suggestion anyway, but it’s important that this is a regular civilian who is not part of the hierarchy.

Information flow to City Council

Gordon Mitchell: Thanks very much. Let’s move on to another question.

Audience member: Hello my name is Barbara Ernsberger, I’m running for Council in District Eight, and I have an informational question. When you’re a member of council, I know there’s a public safety committee; what kind of reports do council members or the committee receive as to the conduct of the police, and has there been reports received in the past showing some kind of repetitive behavior on behalf of the police that should be corrected, and what avenues are open to the members of council once they receive a report they think they should question?

Dan Onorato: I’ve been on Council a little longer than Mr. Udin, perhaps two years longer, and when I first got on, it was so archaic the way they were processing reports. We did not get a steady flow of updates. I don’t even think that in the process of review on the administrative side they were, and that was one of the problems of computerizing, having a red-flag system, so that three complaints of the same type against the same officer, somebody should be standing up and saying ‘There’s a problem here.’ They’ve been very sporadic. I get the impression, maybe Councilman Udin, you could say yes or no to this, that it is getting better. Maybe it’s just because of this debate that’s been going on over the last year, we seem to be getting more info to go through, and I think, what can we do? I think we can take that information and talk about changes, be it the civilian review board, or be it some of the other suggestions I mentioned earlier, because a lot of these have to do with City Council legislation passed. Some of this legislation has been proposed and passed in Council over the last year, additional training and those types of things.

Barbara Ernsberger: So you’re saying that until like the Gammage case, the information was archaic or not presented in a comprehensive way?

Dan Onorato: We didn’t have the system we should have had. And we’re in the process now, we’re spending a lot of money on computerization of the system, so we can have a rapid reporting system. We didn’t have the ability to do that, now we do.

Sala Udin: If I could add to that, I don’t think it’s just a technology question. I think it’s an intentional question. I think that Council has authority that it is not using, and I think that we have just as a Council, not been accustomed to the close supervision and scrutiny of the departments within the city; any department, not just the bureau of police. And I think this particular debate has made us much more aware of the need to have a closer supervision of the city departments. But we still do not get information and supervision as close as it could be.

Larger causes of police brutality

Audience question: I have a question and a comment. My name is Deepa Kumar, I’m with the International Socialist Organization. I want to agree with the case made by the affirmative position. I think it’s obvious to anyone who’s interested in getting justice in the case of police harassment and brutality that we need a measure of this sort. But what I want to do is take up something that Billy said, which was that nobody on this panel thinks that the civilian review board is going to be like a magic bullet, that there’s no way it will do away with police harassment and brutality altogether. If so, then we need to shift the terrain of the debate ever so slightly and ask ourselves how crime, punishment, law, order, stuff like that, is defined in our society. And if you look around, you’ll find that it disproportionately affects poor people, minorities, working people, and so on and so forth. So you have three strikes laws that are crowding jails with poor people who lack adequate counsel, but on the other hand, the rich and powerful are getting away with murder, you know, corporate crime, so on and so forth. So the question then comes down to a very deep level; what can we do to address the structural inequalities in society? And my direct question to anyone on the affirmative position is, in addition to the CRB, what are you doing to address the question more deeply?

Billy Hileman: Let me start by saying that I think that you pointed out the real problem with the way things are handled right now; there is absolutely no input by citizens in general into this process. When police procedures are decided, when collective bargaining contracts between the city and the police are established, Smokey Hynes is there, and the Mayor is there. You’re not there, and I’m not there; gays and lesbians aren’t at the table, people of color are not at the table, people with disabilities are not at the table. And the citizens review board is a small step in trying to amend that great imbalance of power in this city, where our experiences, through people that represent us because they are on a citizen’s commission, will have an ability to make recommendations to the Mayor and to police department, given our experiences with the police. So it’s a start. I mean your question is so broad, I’m not sure I can solve world hunger in a statement ...


... but I think you hit it right on the head. Right now there are two aspects in our city that are part of this debate; the FOP and the Mayor. And we need to get people involved, because our experiences are not heard.

Police view of the public

Audience question: Hi, I’m Carol Stabile. My question is addressed to Mr. Udin. During the course of City Council hearings on the CRB, it seemed that the public overwhelmingly supported the formation of this. I have to admit I was out petitioning during the petitioning drive, and it also seemed that the public had overwhelming support for the idea of a CRB. So I want to ask you expand a little more on the kind of arrogant contempt with which both police representatives and police advocates on City Council have spoken about the public, that the public just wouldn’t be rational enough to do this; the public would be biased, the public isn’t smart enough to know what’s going on. And the final point, it seems to me that the real question here is how can the police, public servants, serve a public that they refuse to listen to, and that they’re almost entirely contemptuous of?

Sala Udin: Well, first, I wouldn’t broad-brush the entire police department on the basis of some of the rhetoric of some of their representatives. The rhetoric does get heated on both sides, and we both are guilty of extremes, and excesses, and distortions, and exaggerations. That’s I guess the art of rhetoric. This is a debating club, so I guess they will understand that. But the real core fundamental point is the attitude of mutual respect. I think that that is probably more dangerous than anything. When we just automatically call the people who brought the ACLU suit in the class action petition a bunch of malcontents and criminals, and stereotype them as one, that is equally damaging as the accusation that all policemen are corrupt and brutal. That is not the case. So that’s why I think that cool heads and rational analysis is necessary, and focusing in on what the core issue is in this particular debate, and that is how will we, or do we, as a society, have the authority to set the parameters and standards for how the police will conduct themselves in our society in this city. That’s the core.

Role of Pittsburgh police in Gammage incident

Audience question: I would like to pose a question to either Mr. Onorato or Mr. Hynes. Mr. Onorato brought this topic up. Mr. Onorato said the Pittsburgh police were not involved with Jonny Gammage, and suggested that this had nothing to do with Pittsburgh cops. In fact, according to the coroner’s inquest in the Jonny Gammage case, there were two Pittsburgh police officers present that night. One was Regis Lattner, one was Todd Cenci. One was present before Jonny Gammage was even cuffed, suggesting that he was there while stuff was still going on. What I wonder about is that given that, the silence has been deafening on both your parts throughout this debate. The Pittsburgh police were involved, and my question is mainly posed to Mr. Hynes. How is it that this whole debate can go on, and you can know this all along and not say anything about it, and how can we trust your word about this issue given that that’s the case?


Marshall Hynes: First, the Pittsburgh police were not involved in that case. It was a chase that happened in Brentwood, it ended up in the city of Pittsburgh. Our officers got there, there was no involvement by our officers in any part in any restraints or anything for Mr. Gammage. It’s sad that an individual dies as a result of a traffic stop, but I am getting awful tired of Pittsburgh police being criticized for that. We’re in the news media; ‘Pittsburgh police did this, Pittsburgh police did that.’ Our police officers were not involved. Jonny Gammage died as a result of some chest compression, maybe. The coroner’s office cannot even determine the actual cause of death. I was in homicide for seven years. Never once did the term positional asphyxia every come into play. Not once. Gammage died, tragically. I cannot say that sincerely enough. But all I am saying was, he was not killed by any Pittsburgh police officer. He died as a result of some bodily misfunction, and that’s sad, but that’s a reality, and that’s why when the facts come out in court, the officer was found not guilty. You don’t have to accept that; that’s the reality of the facts involved.

Dan Onorato: If I could just correct one point, and that is I did not bring up the Jonny Gammage case, I was responding to Mr. Hileman’s comment about it. But I will say this, and this is where we [gesturing to Marshall Hynes] part company: No one, no one should lose their life in a traffic violation, and something is definitely wrong there, and we’ll get to the bottom of it. The only comment I was making, and maybe you’re right, but everything that I’ve read and heard about the case so far, I knew that there were two police officers from the city there, but I didn’t think they were even close enough to even be charged. The only ones that have been charged are all the Brentwood officers. That was my only comment. I was just responding to the Jonny Gammage name brought up by Mr. Hileman, so I didn’t bring it up.

Gordon Mitchell: Thank you. Next question.

Police self-monitoring

Audience question: My name is Vince Jones, proud to be a police officer for the city of Pittsburgh. I work on the North Side. I came here to just listen tonight, but there’s so many things I’ve heard today, I just have to ask a question to the panel here and to everybody out here also [gestures to audience]. This Jonny Gammage stuff, talk about that at a bar sometime tonight and discuss it. Do you honestly think we want to work with bad cops? Do you honestly believe we want bad cops hired? What do you plan on doing if the citizen review board comes about and you don’t get the results you want? Will you have another review board come to go over that review board?

Sala Udin: I know there are a lot of police officers who don’t want bad cops on the force. I know that. I’ve talked to many and they’ve told me that. But I think that the good officers have to accept the responsibility that they have not held the bad officers accountable. They have not policed themselves, and what you’re reaping now is the result of the so-called ‘good’ officers standing by when their partners are beating someone in the head, refusing to bring charges, refusing to intervene. Since you all did not intervene and police yourselves, the people are now forced to intervene to supervise and set policy, and that’s their right.

Vince Jones: Mr. Udin, let me ask you this question, OK. I’m a father of three kids. I try to get home to my family. Now when three people try to beat on my head, kicking me, spitting me, throw things at me, and we put our hands on them, we’re the bad guys ...

Sala Udin: No ...

Vince Jones: Yes sir, that’s what’s happening.

Sala Udin: Sometimes ...

Vince Jones: No sir, every time we put our hands on somebody now, we’re the bad guys, and we’ll sue you.


I’m talking now sir, I’ll give you a chance to reply.

Gordon Mitchell: Could you form it into a question?

Vince Jones: What about my rights? Where do they stop at? When I put a badge on a uniform, do my rights stop? Do my kids’ rights stop to have a father and support them? Do my wife’s rights stop? Thank you. You may answer that.

Sala Udin: Thank you. No, I think police are human beings as Smokey Hynes’ office says. They have rights like everybody else, and I would fight for your rights as hard as I would fight for mine and anybody else’s ...

Incident at the University of Pittsburgh

Vince Jones: Now if ...

Sala Udin: Wait, you made me listen to you, now you listen to me. Not long ago, two University of Pittsburgh police officers pressed charges against another City of Pittsburgh police officer because after a suspect who was running, caught, captured and under control by the University of Pittsburgh police, the Pittsburgh police officer came and kicked him in head, his face, his throat, his ribs, his back, and the University Pittsburgh filed a complaint against the officer. Now I don’t broad-brush all police officers with that one incident, but you also can’t broad-brush all the police officers who are as good an officer as you are. There are some bad guys out there, and the police have to police themselves, and if they don’t, the public must.


Marshall Hynes: I have to comment on that. That’s another one of the issues, half the picture is being painted. The issue that was just brought up, there’s another side to that story. What was conveniently forgotten, another witness to that, a police sergeant, saw that incident, it’s a female sergeant, was involved in that particular issue, that individual knocked her away, got away from her. She called for help on the police radio. She did not see the actions that are alleged against that police officer. Right now, that case is in trial through the arbitration proceedings. That officer has been fired by the city, and we’re saying if he did those things and you can prove it, then you fire him. But don’t do it here. The rhetoric presented is half the story. That’s caused the city a lot of problems, because this female sergeant has more to hurt herself in coming out to support this officer, saying what they’re saying happened, happened. In fact, the individual who was so grossly abused, so assaulted, never brought charges against the police office, didn’t even want to participate in this case. There’s two sides to every story, and all I ask, when you present these things, listen to both sides. That case will be resolved in court, and if the arbitrator feels that the facts merit it, then he should be fired. But if they feel he isn’t, the facts don’t merit it, he shouldn’t crucified here, and that used as a context to get civilian review, it’s only half the issue.

Gordon Mitchell: Thank you. We’ve got roughly ten more minutes left, so just a few more questions. Please, confine your questions to one-time only, no follow-ups, so we can get through more people.

Review board composition

Audience question: My name is Todd Tropes, I’m a Pittsburgh police officer on the North Side. I want to relate back to the John Wilbur case; he was dragged at seventy miles per hour, his hand caught in the door, was able to get his service pistol and fire into the vehicle, finally came to a stop. He had a jury’s inquest; OK, he had to go in front of a panel, and he had to face charges of criminal homicide, which Mr. Udin was totally for, he thought this officer had done something wrong, but he was trying to get home to his wife. I would like to know the fairness of this board, this civilian review board; how are you going to stop this jury from finding these officers guilty when they should be innocent? How are you going to find the fairness in that? How are you going to pick these people? Are you going to pick them from your friends? Are you going to pick them from these people who are signing the petition, putting in there that my occupation is a drug dealer, I want to vote? Is that the type of people are going to sit on the civilian review board?

Joe Panzino: Doesn’t this all seem to indicate that we’re going to paint everyone with the same brush again? Not everyone who has come forward about these things are criminals. Not everyone is violating the law on a daily basis. The fact is, we are only seeing one side of the story. Historically, at least the last thirty or forty years, what’s been going on has not worked, if you know what I mean. The story that’s been heard has been the policeman’s side of the story. It’s been normal and routine practice for commanders in the ranks to just arbitrarily dismiss charges against officers. It does not reach the paper. There’s no review of it all; it goes nowhere beyond police officers and the administration. We need to bring some light into that situation; that’s what’s being said here. We’re looking for accountability; that’s all we want. I’m not anti-police ...

Todd Tropes: We’re looking for fairness ...

Joe Panzino: I consider myself very pro-police ...

Todd Tropes: We’re looking for due process. Everybody forgets the Fourteenth Amendment here ...

Joe Panzino: And I would certainly agree with you ...

Todd Tropes: You think we’re violating your rights; you’re violating our rights.

Joe Panzino: No one has any intentions of dismissing police officers, as Mr. Hynes has said, because of the color of their hair, or how tall they are. But I’ll tell you what, it’s just like Dan Onorato said on the opposition, no one should die for a traffic violation.

Gordon Mitchell: Thank you.

Alternatives to review board

Audience member: My name is Jeff Panehal, I’m a student here at the university. My question for the review board supporters is inspired by the earlier portion. It seems like there’s more in common than the divisions of rhetoric suggest. So my question is, if council would or could address like the grievance procedures, or have some kind of accountability short of a review board, would the review board supporters jump on and support a councilman’s attempt at that? Additionally, if that were successful in providing accountability, why would a civilian review board still be necessary?

Billy Hileman: I wouldn’t jump on board on that. I’m supportive of a civilian review board because what’s missing in this whole process is citizens and their experience in this city, and their relationship with police. We cannot solve the problem of police-community relations without involvement of the community. The relationship needs to be mended by the participation of both sides of this, and we need to change it so that the people who are part of this city are partners in solving this problem. Right now, they are totally excluded from this process. Mr. Onorato would have you vote for another Mayor, my only option this time is councilman O’Connor, who voted against the CRB. I’m not going to wait a generation to solve this problem. This problem needs to be solved now, because people are being injured, people’s rights are being trampled, lives are being torn apart, people are being traumatized. And at the same time, the police have some very legitimate concerns. The relationship that the police have with the general public is deteriorating, and that’s really going to infringe upon their ability to do law enforcement, and it makes some people, some criminals more bold, more dangerous, when they see that the relationship between law-abiding citizens and police is at such a low point. We have to solve this problem, and the citizens have to be a partner.

Grievance procedures and due process

Sala Udin: If I could add just one quick point about due process. It’s important to understand the grievance process. The grievance process only happens when a police officer does not like the discipline, or doesn’t agree with the discipline handed down by the chief of police. Then the police officer may appeal to the grievance arbitration board, see what I’m saying? So that’s kind of like the back door. The front door is the way that citizen complaints are handled. If we don’t correct how we handle the front door, it doesn’t do us any good to correct the back door, because the only issues that come before the grievance board are those issues that are investigated and sustained through the front door. So both have to be corrected, and councilman Onorato wants to introduce some legislation to confront and examine the grievance procedures, I would certainly support him. I support him on a lot of issues. We only disagree on a few issues; most of the time, we agree, when he votes with me.


Value of internal auditing

Audience member: My name is Josh Wilson, I live in Squirrel hill; I’m a member of the Campus Coalition for Peace and Justice. My question is for the affirmative, but I want to start off by saying that I’ve heard arguments that, I’m real sympathetic to what Bianca was saying, that the civilian review board will dilute our efforts to increase police accountability in Pittsburgh. And here’s why, I’m kind of rephrasing an argument that I heard by a member of the ACLU. What he suggested was that there are different kinds of review processes you can have, internal and external. What we’re talking about here is external review by the community, which he suggested, and what makes a lot of sense to me, is that we need an internal, independent auditor that will remain in place after the consent decree is over. Some of you may be aware of the fact that under the conditions of the consent decree, there will be an independent audit in effect for after five years, under that agreement. But after that point, there’s not going to be mandate or commission requiring an independent audit within the department. This seems to be the most important thing that we need, because there’s no way that an outside group, a citizen review board, can go through case-by-case. As you said, there’s sixteen hundred cases or something; there’s no way that a group of citizens is going to be able to go through case-by-case. They’re going to be able to pick out two or three high profile cases, and make some general recommendations, and I think that might be a good thing. But I think that we really need to change the structure within the police department so what we have is an independent person who maybe is someone who is appointed by the Mayor, but is totally separate from the, or maybe someone who is like from council, because that would be even more of a democratic process. Do any of you have a point about this, or a response?

Sala Udin: I think that we first ought to give the process a chance to work. I think that after five years, if the process hasn’t worked, we really need to go back to the drawing board and figure out what it is that were doing wrong. I don’t know if an independent auditor would be able to correct what is still wrong after five years of say, a consent decree, and a citizen police review board. We need to look at it at that time to see what needs to be adjusted.

Josh Wilson: But in five years, we may lose a lot of momentum. The police will not be on the front page of the paper because of these high-profile cases.

Gordon Mitchell: Thank you. I’d be happy to stay here for a long time, but I know it’s been a long day for the debaters, so I’m sorry that we only have time for two more questions, so if we could wrap up those questions and move into the final stage, we’ll finish up the debate.

Rights of police officers

Audience question: My question is for the councilman [Udin]. It seems like you’re so caught up in the numbers game, with this many complaints. The city of Pittsburgh does 300,000 calls per year, 22,000 arrests, about 100,000 citations; there are going to be complaints. I mean, yeans are just going by numbers, who’s the better officer: the one who sits in Dunkin Donuts drinking coffee all day, or the one who goes out and makes 100 arrests, and gets 5 complaints? I mean, yeans don’t realize that LAPD has 8,000 pending federal lawsuits pending against them. And that, as a citizen, everybody has that right. If you feel your rights are violated, you can go that route. If you want to reform the system, reform it from within. Don’t politicize it. All you’re going to do is make this a political arena, and then whenever you do that, you make our job that much tougher, and you dilute the police’s authority. I mean I’ve been shot at, kicked, spit at, I mean, I don’t want to lose my house, get killed, or lose my house, lose everything I own, because someone makes a false accusation. And it can happen.

Sala Udin: Let me suggest this. There are two categories of problems that we have. And I think it’s important to make the distinction. On the one hand, we have officers who are professional, who are aggressive, who take their oath seriously ...

Audience member: If you’re going to be sued ...

Sala Udin: Let me finish, now. I listened to you. Who take their oath seriously, and aggressively enforce the law. And sometimes, they may overreact. I am not concerned about that. I want those officers to do their jobs. I come from a community that needs effective policing, and I want that done. However, all professionals have to behave within standards, within constraints, like the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, like the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, like the policies and procedures of the police department that are currently in place. The offenses of some of these officers, like the ones that are currently being defended and put back on the force by the FOP have nothing to do with guys like you, who are aggressively trying to do their job. We’re talking about assault and battery. We’re talking about many criminal offenders that are being put back on the force. And it is the criminal offenses against the people that is being targeted, not the excessive attempt to enforce the law.

Audience member: If a bad apple is a bad apple, it’s going to be found out sooner or later ...

Sala Udin: What, after somebody is killed?

Audience member: It’s going to happen.

Sala Udin: It’s too late. We can’t wait. We have to prevent it.

Audience member: We all operate, we have the law, own moral code, and our rules and procedures, and we operate in a gray area. I mean, your telling me that three o’clock in the morning, you’ve got to make a split decision in an abandoned house, chasing somebody, that you’re going to be judged by you, three years later?

Sala Udin: No, only if you handcuff me and beat me in the head.

Gordon Mitchell: Thank you. Final question.

Due process

Audience member: I have a question on due process, but I wanted to respond to a couple things first. On the question of bringing suits against police to get justice, you can’t do that when you’re dead. Another thing, Mr. Hynes said he was the President of the Pittsburgh Police Union, then I wonder why he’s defending the police who killed Jonny Gammage by saying that it was a chase, when those police under testimony themselves did not describe a chase, and why he said the cause of death wasn’t clear, when in fact, there was a clear determination.

Gordon Mitchell: Could you get to your question, please.

Audience member: My question relates to due process, and I think that it’s important the police are paying attention to this, because my question is, why is it unclear to a police officer when somebody is committing a crime, why is it not clear that they should do if not to arrest them, and charge them, and allow them to be tried, as opposed to determining that there is a crime, determining what the punishment should be, namely beating someone or killing someone, and determining that that is the right force; why is it unclear? And why, I also see in the press, why are Mr. Hynes making what I see as threats against the population of this city, in terms of what the police are going to do, or not going to do, in relation to crimes that are being committed, because police are not clear as to what they’re supposed to do. When you said that police are not going to go the extra step because they are under criticism now?

Gordon Mitchell: Would any debater on the negative side like to respond to that?

Marshall Hynes: I don’t know what particular question I’m supposed to answer.

Gordon Mitchell: Why, when it’s apparently clear that in many cases that there is excessive force, is it so difficult to make the determination that that it’s in fact clear?

Marshall Hynes: It’s clear when the case is brought through the process. What the individual has his day in court, and the court rules against him, I have no problem with that. I just hate officers taken to market square once a month, and have an officer drawn and quartered with no proof, no validity. I’m not supporting bad apples. I say if that guy’s wrong, you bring charges; you terminate him. You do what you have to do, but don’t go after the entire police department. That’s wrong.



STAGE THREE: Closing Remarks

First affirmative closing remarks

Joe Panzino

Senior, University of Pittsburgh

Gordon Mitchell: Now we’re moving into the final stage of the debate where the debaters will present closing remarks. We’ll start with the first affirmative speech; Joe Panzino will begin to close the debate for the affirmative.

Joe Panzino: Thank you. This is certainly an impassioned issue; feelings run very strong on both sides. I would like to reiterate that I am in fact, I feel that myself, I am very pro-police. I believe that an effective police force is the single most important thing that we have to look forward to in this city here.

Disciplined officers back on the job

I want to correct one of the misinformations, as the councilman has pointed out [gestured to Dan Onorato]. I had said earlier that eight of the ten officers had faced charges that involved either excessive force or assault. Six of those individuals are back at work, due to a technicality; a technicality of a letter not been written within a certain time-frame. An agreement that had been observed by administrations and FOP bodies in the past for a number of years. Three of the remaining officers are under appeal right now, and it is suspected that those three will be reinstated as well.

Finding a comfortable climate for the truth

The point here is that what has gone on in many of these instances has left a great number of people afraid to file these kinds of complaints. And I submit to you tonight that one of the big reasons why it’s being pushed not to support this kind of board is because it’s a floodgate, and once this sort of thing is created, once a person can feel comfortable that a policeman will not retaliate against them, once another police officer can feel comfortable that his fellow officers won’t ostracize and punish him for what he’s done, then the information will start to come out and we’ll begin to get a true picture of what’s gone on here over the past several years. This is not a new issue. This takes us back many, many years. Many people have taken beatings, and just walked away, and chosen not to try to do anything about it. These times need to change. If they had not had a video camera in California for Rodney King, we would not have seen that issue even make trial. This would have been just another "loudmouth brother" that got what he deserved. And unfortunately, it’s seen in too many instances like this.

Seeking a voice

I’m not anti-police. I want effective police. But I want accountability. I want to know that when you pull a gun out on someone, or you choose to shoot someone, that you’ve had reasonably good cause. There are times when a good officer is going to be faced with a difficult decision. He’s going to make it. Sometimes those decisions might be wrong. Sometimes they won’t. Either way, a good officer should not be punished for that. A good officer should have his day in court. He should have a hearing for that, and he’s certainly not going to be dismissed for the color of his hair. That’s not what I’m seeking. I seek a voice. I want a voice for a whole lot of other people that don’t have a voice. Thank you.


First negative closing remarks

Bianca Huff

Sophomore, University of Pittsburgh

Gordon Mitchell: The first negative closing speech will be presented by Bianca Huff, three minutes.

Bianca Huff: I’ve been listening pretty closely tonight, I heard the affirmative side say that first, if the board was enacted, it would have the ability weed out calls or complaints that were not exactly legitimate. I would like to know how long it would take until the board itself has a lawsuit filed against it, because it’s weeding out complaints. Who has a right to say that whose complaint is right, and whose complaint is wrong?

The mayor as spoiler

I also heard that there is overwhelming public support, but I wonder if the public completely understands that the ultimate decision is up to the mayor, and the mayor, in the beginning, when this issue began, came out against a civilian review board. Now I’ve heard Councilman Udin say, ‘Give it a chance.’ Give it a chance so that we can spend money, we can spend time, we can spend energy on something that ultimately will not work? I don’t understand. If the ultimate decision is up to the mayor, and we’ve heard that the mayor really doesn’t want to do anything about this issue, and then we wait for another mayor to come in, who also decided against the civilian review board. Do the citizens know that this is what is going to happen? That they’re facing dissatisfaction, and that sooner or later, they’re going to be against this board, too.

Second affirmative closing remarks

Billy Hileman

Citizens for Police Accountability

Gordon Mitchell: Second affirmative closing speech, Billy Hileman, three minutes.

Billy Hileman: I think that this debate tonight has been important, because in one respect, in a way it will model what we will be able to do if we have a civilian review board. We will be able to have citizens who feel that maybe they have been abused by police or perhaps have great concern about it in the same room with police officers who feel that the eye of the public and the media is too closely scrutinizing what they do and inhibiting what they do in terms of their police functions. I think that’s important because we need to get to know each other and we need to understand what it’s like to be in each other’s shoes. And that’s what a civilian review board will be able to do. Through its public hearing processes, it will be able to investigate the problems that are happening in our city, and have forums where people can talk and learn about what’s happening in each others’ lives.

• Success of boards in other cities

There have been a number of things that have been said regarding other civilian review boards that I don’t believe are true, for example the cost of the Philadelphia review board has been put at $1.6 million, but I talked to the executive director and he tells me their budget is only $350,000, far below the amount of money that is currently being asked of the city of Pittsburgh. I’ve talked to community organizations in Philadelphia, one of the them, the Philadelphia Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and they give thumbs up to the civilian review board. So there are not people in Philadelphia lamenting and protesting the existence of the civilian review board. I talked with the director of the San Francisco complaint board, and just recently, the citizens of San Francisco voted to increase the number of commissioners on their commission by five, so that there’s one commissioners for every 150 police officers. They’re increasing the budget. They do this by referendum in California, a lot more than we do, and it was the City Council, the Board of Supervisors, that said that the civilian review board shouldn’t exist, and it was the people of San Francisco who voted it in, and are now voting to increase it. The idea that San Francisco and Philadelphia are a failure is simply not true. Not only do we measure this by talking to the organizations themselves, but we talk to community groups. So I didn’t just get this from executive directors. We talked to community groups in San Francisco, and they’re supportive of it also. It’s very important that the civilian to pass on the referendum on May 20, because for the first time, the citizens of this city will be part of the process of deciding how police-community relations will occur. Police officers have nothing to fear in terms of the number of sustained cases. I said there was an increase when there is civilian review, but it’s like from nine percent to eleven percent; it’s a minor increase when you compare it to internal review. The increase is not dramatic and that is because review boards are reasonable. We need to get together and talk to the community instead of separate divisions. Thank you.


Second negative closing remarks

Dan Onorato

Pittsburgh City Council

Gordon Mitchell: Now the second negative closing speech, Councilman Dan Onorato, three minutes.

Dan Onorato: Thank you, and I thank you for the invite to be here today. Over the last year-and-a-half now, Councilman Udin and myself have had the opportunity to be in the middle of this debate, and it’s been a very heated debate. I have no doubt that Councilman Udin is very passionate about this and believes in his heart that this is the right thing to do, and we have an honest disagreement on this issue. I do not think that I am disingenuous because I don’t agree with somebody’s opinion. I’m willing to stand up and say reasonable people can disagree on how to solve problems. There’s a problem out there, but there’s different ways to solve it. I also have to disagree with the young lady that said that the overwhelming majority of Pittsburghers want this. I didn’t see that. I will say that the debates were dominated by people that wanted the civilian review board; between 50-100 speakers at the six or seven debates; that’s not the entire city. And it’s also the advocates who should come out to public debates, and rightfully so. And I made sure I came out to attend every one of those hearings. I also represent a part of the city that has a big crime problem, and that it concerns me, and people have complained about abuse. But I also recognize that the crime rate is dropping now, but I’m fearful that the things that I see in the neighborhood I represent is going to flare up again this summer. So it’s a tough balancing act that we have to perform down in City Council.

• New action by the mayor and chief of police

I honestly believe that a civilian review board will go in the other direction, and it’s not the way to address the problems that we’re hearing that are out there. And I did not imply that the only way you can resolve this problem is to wait every four years for the mayor. My point there is that the mayor, as a civilian, oversees the police department. Things have happened already within his first term. He’s the one that switched chiefs of police and put Chief McNeilly in there. Let’s not forget, before Chief McNeilly, there was no officer fired for abusive action. This chief fired ten individuals. He’s only been in office twelve months. He fired ten individuals. Yes, we can argue and get upset about the officers that get back on because of the procedure, and point fingers at whose fault that was. The point is, this mayor, and this chief of police have taken action that is unique to this city, and that can’t go unnoticed. And I think sometimes it does. And, other actions [have been taken in] council; the Human Relations Commission now has an increased role in reviewing complaints. Also the tracking system, the computerized system we have been talking about, have been put into place. Three out of the four recommendations from that consent decree were already implemented, were started, the only one not being the auditor, was the new item.

Common ground and moving ahead

So change is happening; you don’t have to wait every four years, because the mayor, like Councilman Udin and myself, are political people. Meaning we do care, we listen to the public and respond in different ways. On this particular issue, you have two of us who disagree, however as Councilman Udin said, I think there’s a lot of common ground, and there’s a lot of issues in this room that we could agree on. We’re not going to agree on everything, but let’s take the common ground area and move forward. But I think if we could avoid calling each other names because we don’t agree with each others’ opinion, I think that’s probably the best thing we could do. I want to thank you for the opportunity here. And believe me, this is a very important issue to me too. I respect your opinion, and I hope we can move forward after this vote, up or down, in this city. Thank you.

Third affirmative closing remarks

Sala Udin

Pittsburgh City Council

Gordon Mitchell: The final speaker for the affirmative side, Councilperson Sala Udin.

Sala Udin: I also want to join in thanking you for convening this debate. Think it’s a very important debate.

• Challenge to Mr. Hynes

I’d like to challenge Mr. Hynes, however. He’s the last speaker here tonight. The challenge is this. The moment I hear the police in this city, the good police officers, step forward and say ‘We’re going to police ourselves, and we’re going to get rid of the bad apples,’ I will drop this citizens police review board like a hot potato. That’s a commitment. And you too, Mr. Hynes. The moment I hear you vote once to terminate a police officer in a grievance arbitration, I’ll drop it. I’d like to know how many officers you’ve voted against to terminate in a grievance procedure.

Signs of improvement

Either way this comes up, I think we all win, we the citizens of this city. We’ve already started to improve the police department, professionalism and effectiveness of the police department, and the relationship between community and police. Community policing is the way we want to solve crime in this city in the 90’s, and I think we’ve already started to improve that.

Justice Department report

Just a correction, the reason why the Justice Department report has not been publicized; it’s not that they came here and found nothing. They came here and they have a report like this [gesturing two feet high], and they have offered to sign a consent decree. They have said we can either agree to this consent decree, or we can go to trial, and if we go to trial, this is what we’re going to trial with, and the city said, ‘Yes, we’ll sign the consent decree.’ That’s why; because they [the Justice Department] had a massive report that they could have, and they will go to trial with. And that’s the reason they haven’t disclosed it, because in case they have to go to trial, they want to be able to preserve the integrity of their evidence.

Invitation to action

We need more than just debate, folks; we need action. Those of you who feel strongly on either side of this action, we need action. And I encourage those of you who feel positively about the citizen review board, please contact my office in city council; we need your support for the referendum campaign, once we get it on the ballot, so we can get a "yes" vote in the May 20 primary. Thank you again for attending, and thank you for organizing the debate.

Third negative closing remarks

Marshall Hynes

Fraternal Order of Police

Gordon Mitchell: The final speaker of the evening is Marshall "Smokey" Hynes, who will deliver the third negative closing argument, three minutes long.

Marshall Hynes: I just found out tonight, we resolved this. There’s not going to be any civilian review. Councilman Udin is going to withdraw the thing, because, on the one case that I sat on an arbitration hearing, I voted to suspend the officer, which was about a five month suspension ...

Sala Udin: I said terminate.


Marshall Hynes: I didn’t interrupt you. I voted to suspend him, because the city’s assistant chief on that said that termination was too severe, and I felt the same way. He got a suspension. Semantics. I only sat on one, and I voted to deal some discipline to that officer. I guess that means maybe I’m not as bad as everybody says. If we’re as bad everyone says, why do we have one of the lowest crime rates now among cities our size; the fifth-best city in the country to live in.

Quality of Pittsburgh police

I’m telling you, the police are doing some great things out there. Remember, all of these proponents keep coming back to the same thing: Rodney King, O.J. Simpson, Jonny Gammage. They are not, repeat not Pittsburgh police cases.


I know you have a hard time with that. They are not Pittsburgh police cases. There was a figure brought out of 1,600 cases brought forward, allegations against police officers. That’s over ten years, and that’s an incorrect figure. It was 1,200. We answer four million calls over ten years, we have 200,000 arrests, 350,000 citations. Of those 1,200 cases brought forward, most of them were bogus. They can make statistics show whatever they want.

Bad hair day complaints

I’ve never said I’m for bad cops. I voted to suspend on the one case I’ve been involved in. I’ve only been the president since March. Since March, less than a year. I was at the North Side the other day, a young officer came up to me, he was working night turn. It was seven o’clock in the morning. He said, ‘You know what happened to me at four o’clock this morning, I got out of my car, an individual came up to me, stood two foot from me, looked at my name, looked at my badge number, turned around and said, ‘Uh huh.’ And he walks away.’ I guarantee you when that individual gets arrested, or when some friend of his get arrested, or when he just has a bad hair day, and he wants to screw with a police officer, that officer’s name and badge number is going to be brought forth for calling him names, for pushing him around, and taking some kind of illegal action. That’s how bad the system is against the police.

Job as FOP president

My job as union president is to support the police. I have done that. People find that hard to believe. I am supporting the police. But remember this; when it came crunch time, and it was my time to say, ‘Maybe this individual is wrong,’ I voted, much as everyone would like to say no, I voted to suspend this guy. He got like a $15,000 penalty. The other officer involved in the same case was found not guilty. Maybe it was because the evidence wasn’t there in that second case, because there was more evidence out there. Let them have their day in court, and if they have their day in court, and they’re found guilty, then we will do away with them. Don’t paint us all with the same brush. Thank you for your time.



Gordon Mitchell: I think some of the most valuable social learning goes on in debates like this one, and I want to thank everyone for coming out to participate as audience members. I want to thank the advocates for taking time out of their busy schedules to share their ideas with us. I want to thank the members of the William Pitt Debating Union for tirelessly working to prepare and research the issue, particularly two members that I haven’t mentioned yet, Kelly Happe and Tim O’Donnell, Ph.D students in the Department of Communication; they made extraordinary efforts to make this event possible. I also want to say that we’re planning on doing additional debates like this one in the future, so we would appreciate your feedback in terms of suggestions for topics, or suggestions for format. We have forms outside in the outside table which you can use to convey that information to us. Finally, I want to reiterate that after the debate, we are committed to opening up our cameras for people to tell their personal experiences about police, good or bad. We are committed to taking those personal experiences and including them in the full transcript of the debate. If you’re interested in doing that, you can see Melissa Butler; she’s sitting right there over to the side, and she’ll be happy to arrange the taping. Thanks very much and I hope everyone has a good night.