Pittsburgh police officer charged with driving drunk to work

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Acting police Chief Regina McDonald placed a Pittsburgh police officer on administrative leave after he was arrested late Friday night for driving drunk to work, the second time in two years he's faced criminal charges.

Officer Vernon Gibson, 38, of Mount Washington will be charged by summons with two misdemeanors: driving under the influence, and driving under the influence with a blood-alcohol content of about 0.10. The six-year veteran was charged two years ago with felony insurance fraud and was sentenced to a first-time offender's program that required him to complete community service.

Chief McDonald said he worked in support services at the Pittsburgh Municipal Courthouse, Downtown. She declined to say if his leave from his job was paid or unpaid.

Sgt. Sean Duffy wrote in a criminal complaint that he met Officer Gibson at his workplace late Friday because he planned to take the officer to UPMC Mercy for a mandatory drug and alcohol test. Shortly after 11 p.m., Officer Gibson drove into the parking lot and got into the sergeant's car.

When he climbed in, Sgt. Duffy "immediately noticed his eyes were bloodshot, glassy and watery" and that he smelled of alcohol, according to the criminal complaint.

At UPMC Mercy, Officer Gibson underwent a breath test that indicated his blood-alcohol content was 0.128. The legal limit for driving in Pennsylvania is 0.08. The sergeant then took away Officer Gibson's duty weapon and pocket knife.

Officer Gibson was later driven to the Zone 6 station, where he underwent a sobriety test and another breath test, which again indicated his blood-alcohol content was 0.128. He was then driven home.

Officer Gibson was charged with insurance fraud in late 2011 after he admitted to lying to an insurance appraiser, saying that his car was struck when he had actually damaged it while parking. As a result, the bureau transferred him from the bureau's North Side station to the warrant office pending an internal investigation.

In July of last year, a Common Pleas judge sentenced him to complete 200 hours of community service and fined him $200 under the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, which is for first-time offenders who can fulfill certain requirements with the hopes their charges will be withdrawn. Court records indicated he had not yet completed the program.

Mike Manko, a spokesman for the Allegheny County district attorney's office, said the officer's arrest could "absolutely" impact his status with the ARD program. He said further details would not be available until Monday.

Chief McDonald said she was awaiting copies of Officer Gibson's disciplinary and arrest reports.

Sgt. Mike LaPorte, president of the union that represents rank-and-file city police officers, said Officer Gibson faced disciplinary action as a result of the insurance fraud charge, but he declined to go into detail. He spoke to the officer Saturday, but did not know what the bureau planned to do.

"Obviously we'd like to retain every officer that we have, but it remains to be seen," he said.

Officer Gibson is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 12 for a preliminary hearing. He could not be reached for comment, and no attorney was listed in online court records.

Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. First Published December 7, 2013 10:17 AM

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