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Duquesne City Council has directed the mayor or police chief to respond to complaints submitted to the new citizens' police review board within 30 days.
At the Sept. 24 meeting, council approved a motion presented by councilwoman Terra Henderson-Murphy designed to streamline the process.
The move came after residents filled council chambers, many of them speaking out about their frustrations with how the review board process has been handled up until now. Prior to the meeting, there was no established timeframe for complaints to be investigated.
“Residents don’t feel they're being heard,” Councilman Tim Caldwell said after the meeting. “They are concerned they are not getting answers right away.”
Caldwell said after residents file a complaint, the mayor or police chief will review the complaint, decide if it merits further investigation and report those findings to the review board within 30 days.
Police Chief Tom Dunlevy said he is concerned with the potential harm to his officers if unfounded complaints make it into their personnel files, and that retaining personnel is difficult enough.
“We have three police officers that have been here for over five years, the pay is low, we have turnover, officers move on to other police departments,” Dunlevy said.
If the board decides to investigate, it will be careful, Caldwell said.
“If an investigation is initiated, the process could take an additional 30 days to several months to resolve,” he said.
In a video posted to YouTube after the meeting, Mayor Nickole Nesby said she plans to meet immediately with the citizens' police review board and Dunlevy to “see if we can come up with some ideas.”
Nesby said she has reached out to the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives for assistance.
Nesby said she is working with the city manager to secure the school auditorium to hear residents’ concerns regarding the police department, and invite other agencies to participate as well.
Richard Finch Jr. is a freelance writer who covers news from McKeesport Area School District and North Versailles Twp. for Tube City Almanac. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published September 30, 2019.