Springdale opts out of county police review board, other communities unsure
Springdale Council has opted out of participating in an Allegheny County citizens police review board.
At the same time, council voiced support for using any funding the county might provide to establish the review board be used for additional police training instead.
Council made that decision in a 6-0 vote Tuesday after listening to Allegheny County Councilman Nick Futules discuss the review board proposal.
Futules sent a letter to all 16 of the municipalities in his district, including Springdale, seeking to gauge their interest in participating in the board that would look into incidents of possible police misconduct. It would be modeled after the police review board the City of Pittsburgh has had in operation since it was authorized by city residents in a 1997 referendum vote.
He said there is a common misunderstanding among the public that, if established, the county citizens police review board would have jurisdiction over all police departments in Allegheny County.
“It would only be for the county police,” Futules said. “It wouldn’t even be for the county detectives because they are under the district attorney and that is a county row office.”
However, he said communities that decide to opt into participating in the review board could call on it to investigate local police misconduct if elected community officials ask for its help.
“They are not an authority, they are strictly an advisory group,” Futules said.
“Basically, it would be a fact-finding committee?” asked Springdale Councilman Frank Forbes.
“Yes, that’s what it would be,” Futules replied.
He said county officials are deciding whether to form the review board. Futules said the board would not cost the communities anything in the way of fees, saying it would be funded out of current county tax dollars.
In other Alle-Kiski Valley communities, Brackenridge, Tarentum, East Deer and West Deer are among those that have not yet taken up the issue. Brackenridge Council may discuss it at its Oct. 4 meeting, Councilman Dino Lopreiato said.
Harrison commissioners President Bill Heasley said officials there are supportive. It could come up for discussion Thursday, and a vote on Monday, he said.
East Deer Commissioners Chairman Tony Taliani said they haven’t voted because they didn’t think the county provided enough information about what the board would do.
“We tabled any action on it,” he said. “At this point, we’re sort of divided and sort of unsure.”
Harmar supervisors are expected to discuss the measure at their meeting tonight.
Springdale Council asked new borough police Chief George Polnar for his opinion on the matter. Polnar pointed out that the Allegheny County Police Chiefs Association already has such a board in place.
“I just think it’s another layer of bureaucracy that’s unnecessary,” he said.
Polnar added that, for such a board to be effective, it would have to have “the right people” on it, not individuals with hidden agendas or axes to grind against the police.
Futules said some people who do not favor the proposed review board suggested using the money instead for additional training for police across the county.
“That is probably something I would push for in place of a review board,” Futules said.
Council the voted to notify county officials it is against participation in the review board but does endorse the idea of using the money for it for additional police training.
Tom Yerace is a freelance writer. Staff writers Brian C. Rittmeyer and Emily Balser contributed.