by BAP Staff Writer Ashley G. Woodson

MARCH 23, 2006, B-PEP, the Black Political Empowerment Project, hosted "A COMMUNITY CONVERSATION" with new Pittsburgh Police Chief, Dom Costa.

Tim Stevens, Chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project wanted to provide an opportunity for the new chief to create a new and positive relationship between him (Costa) and the African American community. In the initial interactions between Police Chief Dom Costa and B-PEP, it appeared that this would be his mission. B-PEP urged the community to turn out in significant numbers to begin to initiate a breakthrough in police community relations.

Costa came from a neighborhood that was mixed. When he is wearing a uniform he is the Police Chief and when he is out of uniform he is a part of the community. When asked about his interactions with the community, Costa said, "You have to meet people and they have to have confidence in their leaders. If police officers are not respectful to people in the community, then I will deal with it".

Karen Gilliam, a Homewood resident who lost her son due to gun violence, said, "They took the former police officer away from Homewood which was a big mistake. We need to get to know the officers. We were not threatened by the past officers. Government issued guns were bought by street people in Homewood from police officers. Costa replied, "In an ideal world, I would like to think their is no corruption, but I know there is". We are four months behind in tracking guns. In the past ten years there has not been a gun bust and until we increase the number of gun bust, we will not reduce the number of homicides. E-TRACE is a free service that allows police to get serial numbers from guns and trace where it came from within a 24 hour period.

There were different topics discussed throughout the meeting for the new police chief to address. Carmen Brown mentioned that her son and nephew were walking across Larimer Bridge and a police officer stopped them and accused them of having drugs in their possession. They both told the officer that they did not have any drugs on them, but they were arrested and went to court anyway. Costa said that he will look into the matter.

Dave Adams wanted to know what Costa was going to do so African Americans can see a likeness of themselves on the police force. "We are looking into it now. The police department should reflect the community and have recruitment all year around", Costa replied.

Brother Khalid Rasheed addressed the issues of youth and police. He said, "Many young blacks are being criminalized. It starts at the grassroots level with the interaction between youth and police officers.

Reverend Hutchinson said, "Accountability starts at home. Dom Costa is not responsible to raise our kids. We all have to work together.

Costa will look into all matters and issues discussed at the meeting and he will get back to B-PEP with progress reports.