Pittsburgh is an amazing, iconic American city. Its landscape is breathtaking. Its people are genuine. Its history is fascinating. Pittsburgh started out as a frontier town, grew into an industrial “Steel City,” and has since evolved further to become a world-class “eds-and-meds” tech hub.
Legal Means is proud to be from Pittsburgh. We recognize that being from Pittsburgh comes with a certain duty to make this place great. That’s why we feel that it’s not enough for Legal Means to merely contribute to the growth of our local innovation economy. We need to focus our energies on making a social impact here as well. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Pittsburgh, so it’s only right that we give back and make #EqualizePittsburgh a top priority.
Goodness knows that Pittsburgh, like most other American cities, has tremendous need for innovation in justice system reform. Pittsburgh is in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. We are under the jurisdiction of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. We are also under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania. When it comes to civil and human rights issues, these are very busy jurisdictions.
Case in point. Last week we posted on Facebook and Twitter about two incidents that involved potentially unlawful uses of force by police in and around Pittsburgh. The first involved the use of a police dog against a mentally and emotionally unstable homeless man. This incident resulted in the tragic deaths of both the police dog and the homeless man. We would suggest checking out a post by VerySmartBrothas.com (Five Things People Need to Stop Saying When Police Dogs Are Killed) to learn more about this incident.
The second incident involved a police sergeant who was caught on camera beating a guy up without any apparent justification. The officer was charged with aggregated assault after the video surfaced, but charges against the officer where dropped at the preliminary hearing, which was attended by dozens of officers as a show of support (and force) for their colleague. (article and video)
This week, another issue emerged when four out of five twenty-something white men who were involved in the brutal, racially charged beating of an older black man were sentenced to probation and community service. (article and video) The victim in the case, and the community as a whole, expressed disappointment and even outrage over what was largely perceived as an inequitable outcome. In the words of the victim: “If five black guys jumped one white guy, nobody would be going home.”
If you are an attorney and you’re issue spotting these cases, you’re seeing substantial Fourth Amendment issues involved in the first two. In the last case you’re seeing inequity in sentencing, where plea offers are almost always contingent on victim input and perspective, and the victim was clearly displeased with the pleas here.
Pittsburgh: there is much work ahead. Legal Means is committed to #EqualizePittsburgh by tailoring our innovative platform to Pittsburgh’s needs, working with the community to identify the most salient issues, putting the spotlight on individuals and organizations that are doing great work in the #CJReform space, and providing community based education in conjunction with our partners. #EqualizeTheSystem @SystemEqualizer.