Three promoted to police commander

New Pittsburgh Police Commander LaVonnie Bickerstaff is sworn in by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
PITTSBURGH, PA – As the result of promotions to the rank of Assistant chief, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Chief Cameron McLay initiated a promotional process for the rank of Police Commander. The focus of the evaluation process was to identify candidates who demonstrate their understanding and commitment to the Bureau’s core values of “Accountability, Integrity and Respect,” the law enforcement code of ethics, community policing and model leadership in our constantly changing organization.
“Effective today, December 15, 2014, I am very pleased to announce the promotion to Police Commander of Lieutenant Larry Scirotto, Lieutenant Jason A. Lando, and Sergeant LaVonnie Bickerstaff,” said McLay.
The promotional process included the submission of a letter of interest and resume, a review of performance evaluations, feedback from the candidates’ past and present supervisors, answering an essay question and appearing before an oral interview panel.
All Civil Service eligible personnel were permitted to apply. Published promotional guidelines made clear that while supervisors in the rank of sergeant and lieutenant would be considered and evaluated, priority for the position of Commander would be given to those that have successfully served in the rank of Lieutenant. However, present civil service rules permit non-sequential promotions. Since many Lieutenants had never been Sergeants, and many Sergeants frequently serve as Acting Lieutenant, both ranks were deemed eligible, and the final determination would be based on performance in the total process.
Assistant Chief Maurita Bryant pins badge on new Ploice Commander LaVonnie Bickerstaff. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

The 24 oral interviews occurred over three days. The panel consisted of a member of command staff (Chief Bryant or Chief Stangrecki), Police Officer Steve Mescan, a representative from City Personnel (Jennifer Williamson or Colleen Hanley) Office of Municipal Investigations Manager Deborah Walker and Chief McLay.
Each participant responded to three separate questions on important organization level leadership topics. Their responses were evaluated based upon pre-determined benchmarks. The panel provided feedback to either “Recommend” or “Not Recommend” each candidate for the rank of Commander. Those recommended were placed upon an eligibility list from which selections would be made.
“I was extremely impressed by the quality of the candidate pool,” McLay says. “There are far more candidates who qualified to be commanders than there are potential commander vacancies in the coming year. This bodes well for the future of this fine Bureau.”
“I am excited to welcome Commanders Scirotto, Lando and Bickerstaff to my Command Team. Their leadership, passion and commitment will be vital as we move forward, restoring the integrity of our systems, and building bonds within the communities we serve. Commander Scirotto, Commander Lando and Commander Bickerstaff embody our Police Bureau’s core values: Accountability, Integrity and Respect. They will serve as role models for our future leaders,” McLay said.
Police Commander Lavonnie Bickerstaff started her career with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police on April 9, 1990. She has served in the Operations, Administration, and Investigations branches of the Bureau during her 24 years of service. She has served in leadership positions for 19 years to include Community Policing, Weed & Seed, Office of Municipal Investigations, Witness & Dignitary Protection, Crime Analysis and Intelligence, Operations Patrol, Robbery Squad and Homicide Squad. For four years, then Sergeant Bickerstaff served as a community liaison for the Chief of Police identifying critical issues and community concerns and helping to develop solutions. While assigned to the Chief’s Office, she led the Bureau’s recruitment efforts and diversity outreach programs. She is known and recognized for her dedication to the community and leading efforts to foster a better understanding of law enforcement and improving police/community relations. Commander Bickerstaff is the Recording Secretary for the local chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and has been an associate member since the late 1990s. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Biology from Hiram College and has received police leadership training from The Penn State University Police Executive Development course. She has received numerous awards and recognitions including several Bureau Citations, the U.S. Attorney LEAD Award, the NOBLE Achievement Award and the Philadelphia Leadership Award. To Commander Bickerstaff, law enforcement is not a job; it’s a calling.
Police Commander Larry R. Scirotto started his career with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police on January 16, 1995. He has served in the Bureau’s Operations and Investigations branches during his nearly 20 years of service. He has been a leader for the Bureau of Police since January 24, 1995 when he was promoted to sergeant. On June 21, 2010, he was promoted to police lieutenant. His experience includes Operations Patrol, Narcotics & Vice, Canine, Sex Assault & Family Crisis and Traffic. Commander Scirotto is an adjunct instructor for the Pittsburgh Police Training Academy where he teaches courses in ethics, cultural diversity, traffic stops, investigations & interrogations and sex crimes investigations. Prior to serving the citizens of Pittsburgh, Commander Scirotto served as an officer in the Monessen, Rostraver and Donora police departments. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Ashworth College and is working on a Master of Public Poli ce degree from The Pennsylvania State University. His law enforcement education includes the Northwestern University School of Police Staff & Command, The Penn State University Police Executive Development course and the Command Institute for Police Executives.
Police Commander Jason A. Lando started his career with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police on May 15, 2000. In that time, he has quickly demonstrated an ability to inspire, lead and communicate. Always seeking out opportunities in which he could make a positive impact on the Bureau by seeking more responsibilities, Commander Lando was promoted to sergeant in April 2007 and to lieutenant in October 2010. As a leader, he has served in the Operations and Investigations Branches to include Patrol Operations and Narcotics & Vice.  Commander Lando is a certified expert witness in the area of narcotics, certified crisis negotiator, certified paramedic and a Municipal Police Officer Education and Training Commission certified police instructor.  Commander Lando has a Bachelor’s degree in Emergency Medicine Management and is working on a Master’s degree in Legal Studies. In 2004, he received the Paul Pigman Prize in 2004 for volunteer service to the community . He has received the Bureau Meritorious Service Award and Certificate of Commendation.
“The City of Pittsburgh and the Bureau of Police are expecting much from these three highly qualified individuals in building bonds within the communities we serve; living and demonstrating a daily commitment to community policing and serving as examples of Accountability, Integrity and Respect,” says Chief McLay.


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