Pittsburgh Police Union President Confirms Protective Gear For Officers Is Missing

Marty Griffin
June 02, 2020 - 2:22 pm
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Protests over the death of George Floyd turned violent in Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday and once again Monday evening East Liberty.

The areas were deemed unsafe at the times of the actions and the public was urged to not go into these areas. A number of Pittsburgh Police officers were injured during the events. 

Pittsburgh Police Union President Bob Swartzwelder confirmed to Marty Griffin that there are pallets of protective gear for Pittsburgh Police officers to which they do not have access.

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"I still don't know the reason why, if you remember during G20 and other different protests we had and we had this problem back during the Trump rallies, we had officers from the county, state and so on that had their gear and then we had our officers just there in polyester. Polyester with a helmet or without a helmet," he said.

"Our officers did have helmets and and their protective mask from riot control agents, but they didn't have the other gear. Now, there may be a tactical choice where you don't always want to use that gear, but that should be made by the Civil Disturbance Units and by the Supervisors, because you may want more mobility and things like that, but it should always be available because they're trained to use it and it protects them. But if that's a tactical decission, it's much different than it's not available at all and it should be available to them and those decisions need to be made available beforehand.

"And so this gear was removed from the officers and placed somewhere. Don't know the full reason why, but I know that we had it and then we don't have it.

"And there are decisions made because some people have the philosophy that if they wear the gear, then that will incite things. Well, there's ways to work around that. I mean if you have the training like I have and others, there's ways that you work around that and you have pre-staged units to move in when needed. And to say that that's going to incite something, it's not going to incite anything. If it's a peaceful protest, you just walk right on by.

"And why do we have it? Because experience has taught us that it's needed, because if you have some padding on and you're hit with a brick, you're unlikely to end up as a workers comp case or injured in a hospital."

Protesting is a protected Constitutional right, but Swartzwelder said protests that need to be permitted, not in the sense that it's allowed, but in the sense that there is an actual permit by the city for an organizer to hold a protest.

"We have a lot of citizens involved here. You have business owners, you have police officers - who are citizens contrary to what some people might believe, they are citizens themselves that have a job to do - and that's why we do what we refer to as 'permitted protest.' I don't mean that you have a right to protest, I'm talking about you apply for a permit, people know the route, you have an organizer that's responsible for the conduct of that protest and can be held accountable for the protest. So then you set it up and then you're able to help the other citizens that don't want to be involved, avoid that area and be directed around the area so they can get to where they need to go safely with a little bit of inconvenience, not massive inconvenience.

"To tell me that a protest that blocks streets without a permit - I don't know how that happens, but I guess that's what is allowed in the city - because some people interpret the first amendment to mean that we can block streets, disrupt businesses, disrupt the traveling motorists and disrupt the traveling public, that that's part of the first amendment. That is not what the amendment is designed for. It's allowed to peacefully assemble and peacefully protest."

Floyd, a black man, was killed while in police custody, by a white police officer.

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