Curiosity teams collect in Pittsburgh to name for the policing to be divested and reinvested in group wants
Stakeholders met in downtown Pittsburgh on Thursday to urge lawmakers and executives to divest police resources and invest in community causes they believe are the main culprits of violent crime.
“The safest communities aren’t the ones with the most police force,” said Jasiri X, co-founder of black artist / activist collective 1 Hood Media. “The safest communities are the communities with the most resources.”
The collective, along with the Alliance for Police Accountability and other stakeholders, forms the Coalition to Reimagine Public Safety, which released a new report this week calling for public safety to be at the center of community needs.
Other coalition members include representatives from Prevention Point Pittsburgh, the Abolitionist Law Center, and Take Action Mon Valley. The report came from a series of brainstorming and visioning sessions and several public forums, the leaders said.
Jarsiri X read from the report and said the problem starts with how violence is defined.
“Violence is much more than just a crime,” he said. “Rather, violence is an experience that limits or diminishes people’s ability to survive.”
This means that problems such as homelessness, drug use, food insecurity and mental illness are forms of violence. He said violent crime is often a response to these problems.
The goal should be to minimize harm, not cause it, said Brandi Fisher, executive director of the Alliance for Police Accountability.
“If someone is going through a mental crisis, they shouldn’t be locked up – they shouldn’t be handcuffed and locked up,” she said. “If someone needs a home to stay in, that is no reason to put them in jail. If someone has problems with drug use and substance abuse, they don’t need to be locked away – they need help, support and assistance. “
That, said Fisher, is at the heart of the report.
“Often times, visions come out, reports come out, and that’s just the end,” she said. “This group of people up there is here today because we are committed to getting our plan implemented.”
Pittsburgh officials took steps to redirect resources when certain types of calls came in with the creation of the Office of Community Health and Safety. The aim is to provide social service experts who can respond to calls related to homelessness, suicide, and mental illness.
Mayor Bill Peduto’s office announced the initiative in June 2020, saying it would “redirect the city’s resources” to meet the needs of the community.
“Our public safety staff is available around the clock, but they often find themselves in situations that are beyond the scope of their training,” said Peduto at the time. “The individuals and communities they encounter need help that goes beyond law enforcement or emergency medical care. This office will allow public safety to step back and determine what kind of support a person or family needs and support them through social workers or other agencies so that we can see people holistically and connect them to more sustainable resources and assistance. “
Megan Guza is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter.