It's been almost a year and a half since former Pittsburgh police commander and homicide detective Ronald Freeman was appointed to the Citizen Police Review Board. It's been that long since he's attended a board meeting too. The remaining active members recently decided that it was time to do something about Freeman's perfectly imperfect attendance. They voted to begin the process of having Freeman officially removed.
"Freeman hasn't acknowledged any of our efforts to reach him," CPRB Executive Director Elizabeth Pittinger told the board at their March 22 meeting. "We understand he's usually in Florida around this time."
Freeman answered the phone at his Squirrel Hill home on April 4, but said he wasn't able to comment because he was sick.
When board member Richard Carrington asked what kind of feedback Freeman routinely provided for the board's work on cases, Pittinger answered simply, "None."
Freeman is one of two former law-enforcement officers required on the seven-seat assembly, created by voter referendum in 1997 to review complaints about police conduct. He was chosen by City Council. The other former officer, John Bingler, was present on March 22 and has been active on board cases. But current police administrators and Mayor Tom Murphy have long been reluctant to cooperate with board investigations. The police union has also maintained that its regulations prevent CPRB rulings from taking effect.
Writing an op-ed piece in the Post-Gazette on March 20, University of Toledo law professor David Harris (author of Good Cops: The Case for Preventive Policing) said the Pittsburgh CPRB "has the strongest imaginable democratic pedigree as a direct product of a majority of the votes of the people, [yet] some elements of both the Police Bureau and the city government have resisted the efforts of the board since its very beginning."
The CPRB has set a May 1 deadline for Freeman to decide his status with the board.