Lack of policies for East Pittsburgh police a ‘very dangerous situation,’ DA says
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. voiced concerns Wednesday about a lack of training among the county’s 118 police departments — particularly East Pittsburgh — which he said has no policies or procedures for its officers.
Zappala said he planned to consult U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady about the East Pittsburgh Police Department in wake of the fatal shooting of Antwon Rose, 17.
Borough Officer Michael Rosfeld shot an unarmed Rose in the back June 19 as Rose ran from a traffic stop.
The DA’s office on Wednesday announced criminal homicide charges against Rosfeld.
“In this case, yeah, I am concerned about the lack of policies and procedures in East Pittsburgh,” Zappala said. “In response to questions by the major crime investigators when they first came on scene in East Pittsburgh, they said, ‘Well, how do you handle these situations. What’s your policies?’ (East Pittsburgh) said, ‘We don’t have policies.’ “
Zappala added that the department has no policies “for anything, as far as we know.”
“That’s a very dangerous situation,” the DA said, adding that the borough cannot be held criminally responsible for Rosfeld’s actions.
“Legally, no. Civilly, they’ve got a lot of answering to do,” Zappala said.
Messages left for East Pittsburgh police Chief Lori Fruncek, Mayor Louis Payne, council President Dennis Simon and the borough administration office were not returned.
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Zappala said the Allegheny County Chiefs of Police Association issues “model policies” for municipal departments in the county, but they cannot force compliance.
“They can’t obligate individual police departments to follow those policies,” Zappala said. “We have 118 police departments, some of which are run very well, some of which we have to keep an eye on all the time. That’s a creature of the Legislature. If the Legislature wants to do something about it, well, here’s the day.”
Local state lawmakers earlier this week said they were considering legislation that would create a licensing commission to oversee police officers statewide.
They also are considering legislation that would permit a municipality to share an officer’s disciplinary record with other departments that might employ the officer.
State Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Lincoln-Lemington, said diversity education is sorely lacking in some local police departments and it would take a state law to mandate training and policies for officers.
“These officers need to understand the culture of a community in which they’re working,” Gainey said. “I think that if you’re going to be in law enforcement and dealing with certain communities, that you have to have a well-rounded background in dealing with the community. I don’t believe all officers have that.”
Rosfeld was sworn in as an East Pittsburgh police officer a few hours before the shooting but had worked with other area departments for eight years, including Harmar Township, Oakmont and the University of Pittsburgh.