1997: The Consent Decree

In a parallel and virtually simultaneous series of events, the U.S. Department of Justice scrutinized the conduct of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police as a result of alleged patterns or practices of civil rights violations. On 4/16/1997, the City of Pittsburgh and the United States voluntarily entered into a consent decree for the purpose of avoiding litigation related to such allegations. The City denied any and all allegations related to management of law enforcement activities, and denied any pattern, practice, or conduct of police officers that violated citizens’ civil rights. The City did not, nor was it expected to, admit any guilt related to allegations presented by the Department of Justice.

The Consent Decree was implemented under the jurisdiction of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Judge Robert Cindrich presiding.. The terms of the consent decree required the City to comply with certain standards related to the management and conduct of law enforcement activities and the investigation of complaints. The term was at least five years, with the City permitted to petition for termination upon the showing of substantial compliance to the terms and conditions of the decree for a consecutive two-year period. Substantively, the consent decree was lifted on 9/13/2002 with some oversight remaining on OMI performance.

The Citizen Police Review Board was unrelated to the Consent Decree. In fact, the Department of Justice would not discuss any related or common matters with the CPRB without the presence of counsel. The expressed reason for this communication limitation was the uncertainty of the CPRB’s status and cautious presumption that the CPRB was part of the City; therefore, it was seen as part of the Defendant class.

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