The revolving door to the Zone 3 police commander's office has once again turned bringing in newly named Commander Lawrence Ross III while pushing out Commander RaShall Brackney.
In the shuffling of police supervisory personnel, Commander Brackney has been moved back to whence she came, Zone 5. In her 50 or so weeks on the South Side the commander ruffled enough feathers to make a down comforter while earning the respect and admiration of others.
In her short time here the intelligent, articulate and dynamic woman made her mark on South Pittsburgh with her by the book stance and out of the box thinking.
Thrown into the breech, Commander Brackney's first week on the South Side coincided with the Steelers' Super Bowl victory and the ensuing celebration along East Carson Street. She earned praise from area residents for keeping a lid on the celebration; allowing the revelers their fun but calling an end to it before it got out of control.
It wasn't long before the Carnegie Mellon graduate, a stickler for the law, began to draw the ire of the old guard of community organizations on the hill top.
The commander immediately changed the way community organizations interacted with police on the neighborhood level. Instead of sending one or more officers to the nearly five-dozen monthly community meetings in all of Zone 3, Ms. Brackney took that job on herself, once.
She maintained that officers better served the community by being on the street rather than sitting in the 60 or so community meetings every month for several hours each. Instead she encouraged community members to attend the Zone 3 Public Safety Council meeting where they could learn that their problems were not unique and how to better address those problems.
Although attendance increased at the public safety council from a handful to more that several dozen there were still those that resisted change, preferring to think their public safety problems were unique. They complained loud and long about Commander Brackney's policies and longed for a return to the status quo with officers at every meeting.
Obeying the rules got the commander in hot water on Grant Street when she ordered a South Side business to quit doing business on the street, both a violation of the law and a decades long practice for the business. The business was a supporter of Mayor O'Connor and it wasn't long before the commander was visited by a member of the mayor's administration ordering a stop to the enforcement. The business ceased doing business on the street despite the pressure from above.
Commander Brackney ordered off duty officers who were working private security in area bars to follow the rules. Those rules included standing outside the establishment and checking the surrounding area. Although reportedly not popular with the officers, the policy immediately paid off when off duty officers prevented the assault of a young woman on East Carson Street.
The commander also has had her hand in a new city-wide policy for off duty officers working bar detail. The officers will now have to file Incident Reports for occurrences at the bars. The Incident Reports will now permit greater tracking of problems in the bars that could forewarn of a potential nuisance bar in the making.
Commander Brackney's work to improve the quality of life for South Side residents included personal visits to bars that were fast becoming nuisances in the neighborhood. Through her interceding many of the problem bars made efforts to become more neighborhood friendly. One that generated many of the complaints, Town Tavern, went from having the most monthly complaints to having no neighborhood complaints recently.
Apathy and arrogance don't serve the public good and by her words and actions these were faults that Commander Brackney never exhibited and we hope to never see in the police department.
Zone 5's gain is Zone 3's loss with South Pittsburgh getting yet another commander, the fifth in almost as many years. We wish Commander Ross success in his first command. His success can only be good for South Pittsburgh's unique neighborhoods and their residents' quality of life.