MTP: COLLEGE ROUNDTABLE – Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto tells student journalists: “The whole community has to be a part” of police reform, “It’s not just, write a check and walk away”

PLUS, PEDUTO: “There is no going back at this point.” Following calls for change, “It’s only a question of what that reform will end up looking like for cities all across the country”

On This Episode: Chuck Todd is joined by students from Washington & Lee University, Indiana University and the University of Oklahoma.  

On this week of Meet the Press: College Roundtable, Chuck Todd is joined by Avalon Pernell, a rising sophomore at Washington & Lee University and anchor for the Rockbridge Report; David Wolfe Bender, an incoming freshman at Indiana University and founder of the Students United Reporting Network; and Sarah Beth Guevara, a graduate journalism student at the University of Oklahoma and member of the 2020 class of the POLITICO Journalism Institute.

The group of student journalists interviewed Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto as he works to guide his city through historic protests and calls for police reform. The students and Peduto discussed the financial burdens facing Black students in Pittsburgh, his response to calls to ‘defund the police,’  and where the country goes from here on police reform.


Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto tells college journalists: “Whole community has to be a part of” police reform 

PITTSBURGH MAYOR BILL PEDUTO: “Understand that the whole community has to be a part of it. It’s not just, write a check and walk away. It is getting involved as a corporate leader, as a labor leader, as a nonprofit leader and institutions, and not just relying on the government to solve it. Then, we can have real change happen.”


Incoming Indiana University freshman David Wolfe Bender asks Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto about his stance on calls to ‘defund the police’ 

DAVID WOLFE BENDER: “Mr. Mayor, I want to go back to 2016, David Brown who back then was the Dallas police chief, he’s actually now the head of the Chicago Police Department. He said this, he said, ‘We’re asking cops to do too much in this country, we are. Every societal failure we put it off on the cops to solve.’ He went on to name mental health, drug prevention as two specific areas that we have passed on to cops, or passed on to the police. Two-part question. Do you agree with David Brown’s assessment and if so, do you support increased funding in other areas to lessen the burden on police?” 

PITTSBURGH MAYOR BILL PEDUTO: “It’s a great way of talking about a very controversial issue. Right now, there’s so much raw emotion around what is being discussed as ‘defunding the police.’ There’s a lot of questions of what policing would look like in the 21st century. I agree 100 percent with what police chief [David Brown] said. We have handled situations, such as normal people who are suffering through addictions, mental health issues, with law enforcement when what they’re doing may not really be an issue of breaking the law. And, if it becomes incumbent upon us to find the best resources to provide people the services that they need, for many, these health and human services are not a part of their authority. They’re given to states or counties, but all of the problems associated with that fall directly into cities. And we see it even more today where homelessness, addiction, and mental health issues that are at the forefront of every city’s agenda. If we only use police in order to try to solve this problem, then we’re doing a disservice not only to the police, but the people we serve.” 


Graduate journalism student at the University of Oklahoma Sarah Beth Guevara asks Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto about financial burdens facing higher education Black students amid the impacts of COVID-19

SARAH BETH GUEVARA: “Mr Mayor, Allegheny County is 13 percent Black. Thirty percent of your Black population lives below the poverty line. Your state also leads the nation in highest average student debt per borrower. So, how do you plan on adequately preparing Black high school students to pay for colleges, especially with an additional financial burden caused by COVID-19?”

PITTSBURGH MAYOR BILL PEDUTO: “Well, again, it goes where I said before, there has to be creative partnerships that are created in the city of Pittsburgh. We created a partnership with our largest employer of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. UPMC has contributed to a scholarship fund, where students graduating with a 2.0 grade point average from Pittsburgh public schools were guaranteed a $5,000 per semester scholarship for college. Obviously, the cost of education is much more than that. But that is adequate in order to be able to, within our community college system, in order to get the first two years paid for. And then it sits if you’re looking at going to another university later. Not every city again, though, has that type of partnership. What we are also doing is working to find local partners in order to be able to do basically a baby scholarship. A pre-kindergarten opportunity for learning from the age of three to five. What we found is, even with having money available to all of our graduating seniors to do further education, many of them can’t take advantage of it because they simply fell behind by the third grade. They weren’t reading at a third grade level by the third grade. So it’s absolutely critical that we’re looking at this from both ends. What we’re doing at the early phases of a child’s life, and then providing that graduating senior, the opportunity of financial assistance at the back end.”


Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto tells rising Washington & Lee University sophomore Avalon Pernell that “there is no going back at this point” on police reform, “It’s only a question of what that reform will end up looking like for cities all across the country.”

AVALON PERNELL: “The vice president of the Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police voiced concerns in a letter over politicians’ lack of support for the police. How do you plan to get the police unit specifically on board for further reforms?”

PITTSBURGH MAYOR BILL PEDUTO: “I was on the receiving end of one of those letters. And basically, you know, where the emotional level is right now, we’re all — and I don’t mean that as elected officials, just all of us as a nation are in a fight-or-flight mode. And when you’re in that type of mode, long-term rational thought is not always as important.” 

“Start looking at this as a way of understanding that the societal needs in urban areas today are much different than they were 100 years ago, 50 years ago or even 20 years ago … if the people that live within those cities want to see societal change within policing, then they’ll start to see there are opportunities where certain functions that they have been asked to do in the past will be better served by others, the more their operation will be redefined through tactical deployment training, and the use of force for the future. So, to be a part of that discussion requires being a partner in recognizing that that change is inevitable, that we’re at a point now in this country, where it is going to occur. And would you like to be a part of that discussion of how it occurs or would you rather protest it and try and stop? The train has already left the station. There is no going back at this point. And it’s only a question of what that reform will end up looking like for cities all across the country.”


For more information, contact:

Richard Hudock

NBC News

o: (202) 885-4159


Joya Manasseh

NBC News

o: (212) 664-2498




Meet the Press: College Roundtable brings together the next generation of journalists for a weekly virtual panel discussion diving into the issues impacting them, their communities and the future of their education. Each week, alongside Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd, a group of college journalism students from across the country will share their insight and analysis and showcase their interview skills posing questions to key decision makers on the topics that matter the most to them.

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