“The appointment of a new superintendent of the Allegheny County Police should have been an opportunity for a meaningful dialogue that could have built bridges on an issue that deeply divides our community.”
“The appointment of a new superintendent of the Allegheny County Police should have been an opportunity for a meaningful dialogue that could have built bridges on an issue that deeply divides our community. Instead, there was no public communication that a change in leadership in this agency—the only local police agency that operates across Allegheny County—was even occurring. While Deputy Superintendent Kearns by all indications has an accomplished background in law enforcement, his appointment as superintendent was made without any articulation of his vision for the agency or policing in general.
“Scores of members of our community have devoted their lives for years or even decades to the cause of promoting justice and reform in policing. Particularly in recent months, hundreds more have joined them in expressing their concerns about policing in our region and their aspirations for what it can become. And our local academic institutions are home to nationally noted experts on law enforcement. There is no indication that any of these critical voices in our community were even aware this change in leadership was coming, much less had their views solicited on an adequate process for succession and transition. The same appears to be true for our elected members of County Council, who are responsible for funding and oversight of the County Police.
“While the County Police is often not the most prominent in the complex patchwork of agencies that is law enforcement in our region, it does not have to be a bystander in efforts to improve faith and trust in law enforcement among our residents. Its budget, supported by every taxpaying resident of the County, surpasses that of nearly any other local police agency; through its police academy, it provides initial certification and continuing education to many local officers; and it assists nearly every local police department in the County through both specialized services and assistance with routine duties local departments lack the staffing and budgets to meet.
“I have long urged for the County Police to condition these services on local departments meeting baseline standards and best practices. More recently, County Council members and policing experts have brought forward this concept in relation to incentivizing local departments to participate in a prospective County-wide police review board. All of this and more should have been part of a discussion with the community around what it envisions and demands of the County Police and its leadership. While I wish Deputy Superintendent Kearns well and offer him the full cooperation of my office as he assumes this important position, it is difficult not to see this as a missed opportunity to build relationships, trust, and a common vision for the future. I hope that the new superintendent will avail himself of every opportunity to engage in these conversations now that this announcement has been made.”