New commander introduced at Zone 3 Public Safety Council
Last updated 3/3/2021 at 8:48pm
Commander John Fisher began on the Pittsburgh police force in April, 1988. He was a classmate in the police academy with newly-retired Commander Karen Dixon, who he is replacing.
Commander Dixon, who was in attendance, told him he was "blessed" to have a zone with so many committed and passionate residents.
Commander Fisher was born and raised in the South Hills. He is a graduate of Baldwin High School.
Mr. Fisher was promoted to sergeant in March, 1995.
He has worked in all three city police branches: operations, investigations, and administration.
He teaches criminal justice at Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC). He holds a master's degree on the topic.
"I like to think I'm very approachable," Commander Fisher said.
When asked about the Zone 3 strengths, he responded one strength is the younger officers and supervisors. He said the younger officers will grow and learn, and contribute new ideas.
Another Zone 3 strength is all of the active community groups, he said.
Commander Fisher said the highest number of police officers are in Zone 3 – 115 officers.
"We have a full complement of officers and supervisors," he said of Zone 3.
Commander Fisher said he believes in pro-active patrols. He also supports officer-community engagement, like park-and-walks.
"You have a right to be safe," he said.
He also said the public should be comfortable walking into a police station.
To a question of what to do if one has a problem, he said to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Vicki, the Zone 3 clerk.
To a question of which quality-of-life issues the police can address, he said he wants to know about the law enforcement-related ones. Others may not be for the police to address.
The commander said there are growth opportunities in Beltzhoover and on the Hilltop, and other potential advancements in the zone neighborhoods.
"The best days are coming," he said of Zone 3.
In questions-and-answers, Richard Carrington asked how the South Pittsburgh Peacemakers will fit in with the police.
"I think outreach teams are crucial.
"I welcome you wholeheartedly with open arms," Commander Fisher said.
Roy Blankenship, Jr., of the Hilltop Alliance, said Peacemakers is just what is needed.
"They do great work," he said.
SPCP Director Rev. Eileen Smith said her organization is very proud of the work they do, and she would be happy to meet with the new commander.
"We look forward to working with you," she said.
To an attendee's question about illegal drugs in the area, Commander Fisher said the city has a Narcotics and Vice Unit that can be brought in.
He added that law enforcement, education, and rehabilitation are needed, so it is a complex problem.
Commander Fisher wondered aloud about the reason people come to this area to buy drugs. Is there a degree of acceptance?
He said do not confront, but let them know their activity is not welcome. Call the police.
He said word will get around that if you come in our neighborhoods to buy drugs, the residents will call the police on you.
To report drug houses, call 911 or 311. The latter calls make their way to the drug task force. But addresses are needed.
Another effective tool regarding disruptive properties is the Disruptive Properties list in which legal action is taken once a property receives numerous complaints.
Regarding zone-wide crime, Commander Fisher said it is down 25 percent the past few years.
"We want to keep it that way," he said.
To a question about homelessness in South Side Park, he asked if it was a police issue or, to be more pro-active, an issue the police and community can work on together to find a solution?
The meeting began with attendees congratulating Commander Dixon on her tenure as Zone 3 commander. She began the position in 2015.
"You've been an extremely strong and responsive commander," South Side Community Council (SSCC) President Barbara Rudiak said.
She added, Commander Dixon made SSCC's South Watch better by working with Duquesne University, attending meetings, conducting follow-up between meetings, and more.
Commander Dixon said it was a tough decision to retire. She and her husband plan to travel.
Donna Williams thanked her for all of her help with the block watches, National Night Out, and having officers attend various community events.
"I'm really grateful," Z3PSC president Liz Style said of Commander Dixon's work in the zone.
"I am loving retirement, and I wish you the same kind of love," she said.
"I gained a new respect for what leadership is," Mr. Blankenship, Jr., said of the commander.
"My kids love you, my whole family loves you.
"People felt comfortable enough to bring things to your office," he said.
"You never turned us down for anything we asked," Mr. Carrington said.
New state Rep. Jessica Benham thanked her for all of the work she's done.
Commander Dixon told her, hopefully, she will come up with legislation to help with the unlicensed speakeasies in the zone.
City Councilman Bruce Kraus said he and Commander Dixon formed a "genuine friendship" over the past five years.
"I still have your cell [number]. You ain't going anywhere," he said.
"Your commitment made my job so much easier," Commander Dixon said to the attendees.
"I've been very blessed. I got to do the job I wanted.
"Zone 3 was fantastic. I will miss it, but it was time," she said.
The next Z3PSC meeting will be at 6 p.m. on March 15.