Mayor Peduto, Chief McLay, B-PEP and CPRB thank community and officers for cooperation
PITTSBURGH, PA (Nov. 26, 2014) The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police ramped down its week-long deployment of special 12-hour shifts this morning, following safe and constructive interactions with community members and protesters the previous 36 hours.
Acting Chief Cameron S. McLay launched “Operation Over Watch” last Wednesday in advance of hundreds of thousands of visitors attending Light Up Night activities, weapon-related violent incidents in city communities, and the expected announcement of the grand jury announcement in August’s fatal shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.
Through the operation all Pittsburgh police worked 12-hour shifts and were broken into three mobile field forces spread out among the city’s six police zones. After a peaceful protest Downtown Tuesday afternoon Chief McLay and his command staff decided to downsize the operation and return to regular police staffing and shifts as of 7 a.m. this morning.
One field force group remains deployed that will monitor the city’s South Side this evening and any other activity that may arise.
“The relationships we are building with community stakeholders, and our proactive efforts to cooperate, are paying dividends,” Chief McLay said. “The community response since the Ferguson decision has been measured and thoughtful, and the behavior since Monday has made it easy for us to keep the city safe.”
“I am very proud of my chiefs, commanders and officers for following an approach that allowed people to express their First Amendment rights in a peaceful and mediating way, while at the same time having robust abilities in place to assure the public safety of our city.”
Officers received refresher instruction on handling civil unrest and crowd-control, and were reminded of the expectation that police will help facilitate the peaceful expression of First Amendment rights.
“Police were well-prepared but not over-prepared, and they never over-reacted,” Mayor William Peduto said. “I am proud of the way the men and the women of the Pittsburgh Police Bureau rose to the occasion.”
The Mayor also thanked faith leaders across the city for their help in keeping communities safe. He opened lines of communication with the leaders Monday night, with plans to host joint neighborhood meetings or messages if reaction to the grand jury decision turned harmful.
“I am now more hopeful than ever that we can use this moment to build relationships between our neighborhoods and our police, and grow stronger bonds between us,” the Mayor said.
Tim Stevens, Chairman & CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project and co-convener of the Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence, said “as a long-time community activist I was proud of the cooperation between the police bureau, its leadership and the community, and proud of the clear commitment to people being able to express their civil rights, to be able to express their heartfelt opinions, frustrations, concerns and upsets in a constructive manner, and for that right to be fully respected by the leaders and officers of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.
There was great respect shown by the bureau representatives in how they interfaced with the protestors, and my hope is this moment can be expanded into years of mutual respect and cooperation.”
Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizen Police Review Board, said “I was impressed and deeply appreciative of the officers' professional demeanor and friendly presence during local Ferguson-related demonstrations.”
The Mayor and Chief McLay also thanked federal, state and local public safety agencies for their assistance over the past week.
Personnel cost estimates for Operation Over Watch were not immediately available. The bureau is in the middle of a payroll period and all overtime cards have not yet been submitted.