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Pittsburgh Police will establish a new domestic violence unit


Last updated 1/28/2019 at 8:14pm

The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police is set to establish a new investigations unit this year focusing on domestic violence cases, using $500,000 in funding from the Nina Baldwin Fisher Foundation.

Legislation accepting the funding has been introduced to Pittsburgh City Council. It would support creation of a Domestic Violence (DV) unit in the police bureau consisting of one DV Sergeant (new position), one DV Detective (existing position), one DV Detective Specialist (new position), and one civilian clerical specialist (new position).

“Pittsburgh Police officers respond to thousands of domestic violence calls every year, and this generous grant from the Nina Baldwin Fisher Foundation will enhance our services and responses to victims in desperate need of our help,” Mayor William Peduto said.

The unit will increase Pittsburgh Police resources in support of victims of domestic crimes, including those who are victim witnesses in criminal cases and those who file for protection from abuse relief.

The unit will expand data collection and processing to improve investigations of domestic violence and review all domestic violence incident reports. Unit members will participate in collaborative justice system projects and community outreach in the area of domestic violence. They will also participate in national training on domestic violence best practices for law enforcement and become leaders in implementing such best practices locally.

Pittsburgh Police respond to more than 13,000 domestic violence calls annually. In 2015, for example, there were 10,464 “domestic” calls to PBP as well as 2,522 “Domestic - PFA Service or Violation” calls. For calls to PBP for which arrests are made for crimes of intimate partner violence, there are about 1,500 a year.

In addition, officers in the PBP administer more than 1,400 lethality assessment screens every year to victims of intimate partner violence as they work to identify victims at high risk of being killed by their partners and refer them for supportive services.

The city will work with advocates at Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh to implement the unit.

Nicole Molinaro, President/CEO of Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, said “We applaud the level of commitment and collaboration from the City and the Bureau of Police in developing this new initiative. We are grateful for the Nina Baldwin Fisher Foundation’s leadership and for the funding provided to make all of this possible.

“The specialization of the new DV Unit will be critical for Pittsburgh to keep pace with national best practices and will enable the police to build on their exemplary work in the Lethality Assessment Program that has been lauded as extremely successful across the State and by the PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence. We look forward to an expanded partnership with the police to better address domestic violence in the City.”

Pittsburgh Police have comprehensive policies and procedures for all officers to use when responding to DV incidents. However, the police bureau and the DV victims it serves would benefit greatly from the addition of more DV specialists as well as a new database for the tracking of DV crimes.

“This will allow us to integrate our systems to better serve all domestic violence victims,” Assistant Chief of Police Lavonnie Bickerstaff said.

Funding for the five-year grant from the Nina Baldwin Fisher Foundation is set to begin January 31.


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