Why Pittsburgh just endorsed 8 police reforms that ‘can’t wait’

Updated: 4:50 p.m., June 18 

Eight use-of-force policies championed by reformists have been endorsed by Mayor Bill Peduto, with some already in effect here. The mayor’s backing of the so-called “8 Can’t Wait” reforms comes after blistering criticism of police actions at a protest here on Monday.

So, what exactly is “8 Can’t Wait?” Do these reforms make a difference? Do they go far enough?

We’ll explain here.

What is “8 Can’t Wait”?  

It’s a collection of eight police reform proposals put together by Campaign Zero, a Black Lives Matter-connected group.

How does it work? 

Mayors enact the measures for their municipalities and to guide their police departments.

What are the 8 proposals? 

  1. Ban chokeholds and strangleholds
  2. Require officers to de-escalate situations, where possible, by communicating with subjects, maintaining distance
  3. Require officers to give a verbal warning, when possible, before shooting at a civilian
  4. Require police to exhaust all other reasonable means before using deadly force
  5. Require officers to intervene and stop excessive force by other officers and report these incidents immediately to a supervisor
  6. Ban shooting at moving vehicles
  7. Develop a “force continuum” that limits the types of force and/or weapons that can be used to respond to specific types of resistance
  8. Require officers to report each time they use force or threaten to use force against civilians

Does it work? 

Campaign Zero found a 72 percent drop in police violence when all eight of these proposals are enacted jointly, compared to cities that don’t use them. But so far, few departments and cities have opted for all eight. Only two of the country’s largest 100 cities (San Francisco and Tucson) have all of them. Pittsburgh makes that three.

Didn’t Pittsburgh already adopt some of these measures? 

Yes. According to Campaign Zero, Pittsburgh had already adopted numbers 1, 2, 3, and 7 but had yet to adopt numbers 4, 5, 6, and 8. Mayor Bill Peduto now says he endorses all 8 proposals along with a raft of statewide reforms.

City Paper quotes Peduto’s chief of staff, Dan Gilman, as saying: “The bureau of police has already begun a full review of our policies to make sure that we are embracing and following all eight principles.”

A five-year report released by the city in 2016 found use-of-force incidents were down overall but still disproportionately impacted Black residents.

Is there criticism of “8 Can’t Wait”?

A coalition of Pittsburgh activists says the 8 Can’t Wait proposals don’t go far enough.

Some critics say the way to stop police brutality and killings is to defund departments, with law enforcement budgets cut so that money can be reinvested in public services. Campaign Zero’s co-founder says reduced funding can’t be the only focus of police reform — “police are still going to be here tomorrow. Shrink the role work is gradual work.”

Recommended reading: 

➡️ Civil rights activist and Campaign Zero co-founder DeRay Mckesson explains the need for “8 Can’t Wait” (GQ magazine)

➡️ Is it time to defund the police? (Fast Company)

➡️ Gov. Tom Wolf announces reforms in wake of George Floyd protests (PennLive)

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