Archive

ShareThis Page
Mon Valley police departments will soon need DA approval to file 40 felonies | TribLIVE.com
Allegheny

Mon Valley police departments will soon need DA approval to file 40 felonies

161299ptrZappalamtg
ALLEGHENY COUNTY DA'TWITTER ACCOUNT
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. holds a meeting in McKeesport Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, with police chiefs from Mon Valley municipalities to discuss a McKeesport warrant office opening in October.

Officers in 25 Mon Valley police departments will soon be required to receive approval from the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office before charging people with 40 felony charges.

The change will go in to effect in October when the DA’s office opens a warrant office in McKeesport in the old Daily News building, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said.

Currently, all officers in the county need approval from the DA’s office before charging people with major felonies like homicide. But Pittsburgh officers need DA approval for those and about 40 other smaller felonies, said Mike Manko, Zappala’s spokesman.

After the new warrant office opens, officers in the Mon Valley municipalities will also be required to get DA approval to file 40 other felonies, such as aggravated assault, felony sex assault and child abuse, Manko said.

“This is to limit the discretion of what an officer can do without the consent of my office to charge people with a crime,” Zappala said. “When you charge a person with a crime, you change their life.”

Many officers from smaller municipalities work part-time.

Manko added: “The big difference once the warrant office begins operating is that those 30 departments will not be able to file most cases without our approval.”

The office plans to open a warrant office in Monroeville next year, which will require the officers of the east suburbs to get DA approval before filing the same 40 felony charges, Zappala said.

The warrant office in Downtown Pittsburgh, currently the only one in the county, opened about a year ago, Zappala said.

The new McKeesport office will also offer police training in a room that can hold 25 people, Zappala said. The office does not yet know what type of training the municipalities will need in the new office, but it will all be classroom-based training, Manko said.

“What I told these guys is ‘We’re gonna be down there,’” Zappala said. “We have talented people willing to help you develop like we do the lawyers. I think between training and use of technology, we’re going to get a better police officer. We know we have some good officers there right now.”

Zappala gave copies of about a dozen police policies to police chiefs during a meeting Saturday in McKeesport. He recommends they adopt them. He said he’d like to review the departments’ policies on use of force, search and seizure, custodial interrogations and pursuits.

“Those are the minimum areas I think you have to have policies and procedures,” Zappala said Tuesday. “I am comfortable that the overwhelming majority of the county police departments do in fact have those procedures in place, and they train on them. Hopefully through the warrant office and otherwise and through the diligence of the Chiefs of Police Association, if there are deficiencies, they’ll address it.”

Zappala said he discovered East Pittsburgh police did not have any written policies after part-time East Pittsburgh officer Michael Rosfeld shot and killed unarmed teen Antwon Rose as he ran from a felony traffic stop June 19. The tiny borough had policies, but “they might not have been updated the way they should have been,” Mayor Louis Payne said last month.

The incident raised questions about whether the county’s small police departments have updated polices and train their part-time officers properly.

The changes and new offices were in the works prior to the Rose shooting, Zappala said.

“I think (the shooting) did stimulate a lot more discussions between my office and the police community about where we should be heading and put more technology in play,” Zappala said.

The office also plans to place more cameras in the Mon Valley, especially Clairton, Glassport, McKeesport, West Mifflin and Duquesne.

Zappala also wants to see more Mon Valley officers using body and dash cameras and gain access to more technology, he said.

The office left three portable fingerprint readers with county police, and plans to place three in the McKeesport office for officers to test out, Zappala said.

The 25 Mon Valley police departments are:

• Braddock

• Braddock Hills

• Clairton

• Duquesne

• East Pittsburgh

• East McKeesport

• Elizabeth Borough

• Elizabeth Township

• Forward Township

• Homestead

• Liberty Borough

• Lincoln

• McKeesport

• Munhall

• North Braddock

• North Versailles

• Picairn

• Port Vue

• Rankin

• South Versailles

• Turtle Creek

• Versailles

• West Homestead

• Whitaker

• White Oak
The story has been updated with the correct number of departments and the names of those departments.

Staff writer Megan Guza contributed to this report. Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Theresa at 412-380-5669, [email protected] or via Twitter @tclift.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.