By Beth Pittinger
This debate on the proposed amendment to the City Code to establish as an official, permanent, City Board or Commission, a Domestic Violence Review Board, Advisory Panel, Task Force, etc. is distracting from what many have amplified: this is NOT about Officer Involved Domestic Violence (OIDV). We need everyone to focus on developing an adequate, responsive and accountable system of police intervention in community based incidents of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)/ Domestic Violence (DV), etc.
Right now there are two Domestic Violence Review Boards in the City (controlled by the administration) and one independent Citizen Police Review Board whose charter mandates review of all things related to police. Personally, I see Bill 2013-1482 as redundant, extraordinarily so, but I also see a very important purpose for a temporary, ad hoc, task-driven group of IPV/DV advisors related to the implementation of the Maryland Lethality Assessment Protocol.
I would encourage appointment of a focused advisory task force impaneled to sit concurrently with the 24 month implementation of the Maryland LAP. They would provide guidance, research and evaluation related to the LAP project. At the end of the two years, the need to codify such an advisory group could be reconsidered.
The substance of the landmark 2007 OIDV legislation must be off the table, and the public be assured that there is NOT a surreptitious intention to impanel this IPV/DV Board/Panel/Task Force for the real purpose of dissecting and deconstructing the OIDV ordinance. This is a common suspicion and, if accurate, is certainly not the way to go about a policy debate. It’s a sneaky notion and one that betrays public trust.
The sponsor, Councilman Burgess, set forth a legislative package to honor Ms. Wade and hopefully to prevent a similar event in the future. Officers responded to Ms. Wade as a call for “unknown trouble” not a call known to be DV related. Ms. Wade was not the victim of OIDV. So how did we get to an agenda apparently seeking to review OIDV under the guise of police implementing the Maryland Lethality Assessment under the direction of a third domestic violence advisory entity?
Another issue that comes up is the alleged disparate treatment of cops as a class different from other employees (yes, we know they are, but nonetheless…) by amending the Citywide DV policy (ordinance derived from 2010-0009) to include the OIDV instead of OIDV residing under the Director of Public safety, but to bring that up now would make it muddier than it is already!
Beth Pittinger is Executive Director of the Citizen Police Review Board (CPRB), an independent agency within the City of Pittsburgh set up to investigate citizen complaints about improper conduct by the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. This editorial commentary does not reflect the official position of the CPRB.