The 60s to 90s: Civil Turmoil & Community Police Relations

Sparked in the riots of the sixties and smoldering through the nineties, Pittsburgh endured tremendous social, economic, and cultural commotion.

In 1976, a Home Rule form of government was adopted by the people; in the 1980s, the steel mills declined to extinction while the Renaissance campaigns sought to revitalize commerce; the population declined as the hard-working blue-collar workforce was displaced.

Swirling from the ashes of social turbulence in the mid-nineties were indicators of seriously strained relations between citizens and their police:

  • A history of suspicious deaths and police abuse, though not exclusively affecting the African American community, the incidence was notably suspicious.
  • Increasing number of lawsuits and liabilities accruing to the city as a result of unlawful police conduct.
  • Public distrust of internally conducted investigations of police conduct.
  • Public perception of disciplinary leniency in the Bureau of Police.
  • Absence of professional standardization in expected conduct and procedural protocols against which questionable conduct could be measured.

A dearth of efforts to reform police conduct gave way to an unprecedented flurry of activism from the U.S. Congress, the Federal Courts, and the Council of the City of Pittsburgh.