The price of police discipline in Pittsburgh

Stephen Bucar, Bill Peduto
Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar, left, makes a statement during a news conference with Mayor Bill Peduto on Monday, June 16, 2014, about a videotaped confrontation between a police officer and a woman at the city’s gay pride parade and festival on Sunday June 15 in Pittsburgh. A gay rights group is asking Pittsburgh officials to investigate a videotaped confrontation. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Last month, the New Pittsburgh Courier looked at how arbitrators have the final say when police officers are disciplined for violations of the law or procedure. Sometimes, however, such violations have costs. Some are physical, involving recovery from injury, but others–even when medical consequences are minimal–are financial.
According to the Bureau of Police 2013 Annual Report, last year, 31 officers were sued in 11 different actions filed either in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court or in the U.S. District Court for Western Pennsylvania. Another complaint was filed with Pittsburgh Human Relations Commission.
Of the three complaints filed in Common Pleas, one involved a traffic accident, one charged false arrest/slander, and one claimed civil rights violations. Of the eight actions filed in federal court, one charged false arrest/imprisonment, one charged sexual harassment and six charged officers with excessive use of force.
Two of those cases, involving the same officer, were resolved–meaning charges against the city, the chief and officers acting in an official capacity were dismissed. In one, charges of false arrest/imprisonment against officer Adam Skewers were dismissed. In another, he was found guilty (as an individual) of sexual harassment. Another 10 cases from previous years were also resolved.
Three cases filed against in previous years were also settled in 2013. In one, a civil rights case brought by John Halbleib in 2012, the parties agreed to a non-economic settlement. In another, the city paid a $25,000 civil rights settlement to 25 individuals arrested during the 2010 G-20 summit.


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