Gainey Squares Away the Police, Provides Reassurance (40 Days Out)

Reported incoming Pittsburgh chief of police Ryan Lee spent most of his career in Portlandia developing a reputation for prudent crowd control, protest management and community policing. But given a chance to run a department in Boise he allegedly broke an officer’s neck during training (allegedly mocking them for their trouble) and later resigned amid a string of officer complaints about disrespectful management.

The hefty raises in Pittsburgh’s new police contract should help mollify apprehension of their new boss. And though the contract for the first time includes discipline for certain bad behaviors, officers can still appeal that discipline to state arbitrators, rendering the teeth of reform as yet untested. At only 3 years the contract could be considered “mercifully” short — almost a pilot project to see how the accountability mechanisms hold up — though renegotiating labor agreements so frequently can increase expense and uncertainty, and heaven knows what scheduling renegotiations for just after the next mayoral primary might bring.

“Defund the Police” must be truly dead if Gainey was able to shepherd such a hefty police contract to fruition with nary a mad tweet from the whole public. Left-wing activists either trust the Gainey team to fitfully haul them towards the promised land as best anyone can, or else power and opportunity turned out to be a little closer to their mark of desire than revolution and abolition.

Public safety is a big issue in the primary election for Allegheny County Executive. Candidate Michael Lamb recently reiterated that social work and progressive policing models work if you work them, the problem is Mayor Gainey so far has unaccountably failed to implement it. One complaint about the Gainey administration thus far is how it seems to move terribly slow. Another is how much of it’s managed by former political advocates and organizers moreso than folks with prior experience in government. The contrast was meant to be drawn with Lamb’s rival Sara Innamorato, who shares close alignment and coalition with Gainey and with Congresswoman Summer Lee, all scrutinized for signs of lack of experience.

Innamorato wants Allegheny County to aim high and do a lot, like use the health department to regulate not just pollution more stringently but hospital outcomes, and overhaul the property tax system with fewer exemptions for “nonprofits” and more for longtime low-income home owners. One challenge is state government, which keeps rejecting progressive initiatives from the rental registry to modest gun control; and memory, which recalls how deftly Gainey lowered lofty expectations after his election and is still working a full-time job to meet them.

Mayor Gainey’s new police chief and police contract have the potential to reassure Allegheny County about its whole left-wing progressive moment, and propel it to new heights of responsibility. But if either or both should backfire too badly too soon, liberal voters might moderate their zealotry and look elsewhere for grounded, efficient & honest government.

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