Women's groups press to rescind police promotions

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Representatives of women's groups today repeated and added to their demands that the City of Pittsburgh revise procedures regarding domestic violence in the wake of the June 18 promotions of three police officers who have faced accusations of abuse.

The promotions are "appalling. They're insulting to the citizens of Pittsburgh" and to officers who have never been accused of domestic abuse, said Jeanne Clark, a member of the state board of the National Organization for Women and a Squirrel Hill resident, at a City Council public hearing on the promotions attended by some 150 people.

"Clearly the police brass has no idea about the impact and the law regarding domestic violence," she said. "It kills women. It kills men."

Shirl Regan, executive director of the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, said that her organization works well with most police.

"For the most part, the police that we work with care and are committed to providing safe services and protection to all citizens," Ms. Regan said. But there should be improvements.

She asked that the city adopt a domestic violence policy that would affect promotions and would require that the Allegheny County district attorney investigate all abuse calls to police officers' homes. She also asked for the return of domestic violence specialists to each police zone station. Such specialists were in place from the late 1990s through 2001, when a federal grant supporting the program ran out.

She called for "immediate in-service training to all city police officers that would be completed within 60 days," perhaps including information on abuse awareness provided at zone roll calls. The Police Bureau should also purchase digital cameras for all squad cars so that officers can gather evidence that will help with prosecution of domestic violence cases, she said, estimating the cost at $25,000.

Heather Arnet, executive director of the Women and Girls Foundation, urged that the Fraternal Order of Police join women and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl at the table and help rework domestic violence rules. To date, the FOP has opposed any effort to rescind the promotions or rewrite civil service promotion rules.

Freshly minted Cmdr. George Trosky broke his then-wife's nose in 1997. An assault charge was dropped when the ex-wife did not show up in court. New Lt. Charles Rodriguez faces a pending criminal case in Ingram, where police charged him with simple assault for an April incident with his daughter. Police responded twice earlier this year to now-Sgt. Eugene F. Hlavac's home in relation to arguments with his girlfriend.

Karen Myres, president of the Executive Women's Council of Pittsburgh, criticized the police leadership's defense of the promotions. She said "1997 was not 'a lifetime ago.' Verbal abuse cannot be dismissed as just a loud domestic discussion," she said. If a father slaps a child, she said, "it is not an act of discipline. It is a crime.

"It takes commitment and consistent deliberate action over months and even years to change a culture that rewards violent behavior," she said.

Michele Cunko, former director of the city Civil Service Commission, said the chief had "an absolute right" to pass over any of the men for promotion. "We don't want police officers to think that this kind of behavior is rewarded with a promotion."

Several speakers backed the officers.

Charles Hanlon, recording secretary for the FOP, said the men were "promoted on just causes. . . . I know all three of them personally. . . . And they are totally professional men.

"These three men have just been accused," he added. "They have not been convicted."

Attorney Louis Coles said he knew all three officers.

"George Trosky's charges were dismissed against him. Gene Hlavac hasn't had any charges brought against him. And Sgt. Charles Rodriguez is pending charges," he said. "They're all fine men, good officers, and should anything happen at your house, you should probably be happy to see any of these men."

Mr. Ravenstahl was not present early in the hearing. Police Chief Nate Harper was present.

The mayor and the chief have said that they are considering whether to rescind the promotions and looking at a variety of options for changing procedures for deciding promotions.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


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