New police commander says he's buried his past

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A freshly minted police commander who followed years of controversy with a decade of quiet service said yesterday that he is ready to make the unusually steep leap from detective to head of the Zone 2 operation.

Post-Gazette
New Pittsburgh police Cmdr. George Trosky takes the oath administered by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl at the City-County Building yesterday.
Click photo for larger image.

"That was a lifetime ago -- that's over with," said Cmdr. George T. Trosky of incidents and allegations of violence and drunken driving. "I'm a hard-working, dedicated Pittsburgh police officer," he said, minutes after being sworn in by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

"When you look at his record for the last 10 years," said Police Chief Nate Harper, "he has not had the problems that he had in the past. That shows me that he overcame those problems."

The 52-year-old commander joined the bureau at age 23 after an Army tour and short stints for the Allegheny County Jail, Sewickley police and Allegheny County police.

The problems Chief Harper referenced include a 1989 incident that made national news in which he was videotaped punching a Grateful Dead fan outside a concert.

In 1990, his name was inexplicably stricken from a list of candidates for promotion to sergeant, and a lawsuit led to his promotion to that post in 1993, retroactive to the date of the error.

He would only serve as sergeant, though, until 1997, when he was charged with drunken driving and simple assault stemming from allegedly breaking the nose of his then-wife Cheryl.

Domestic abuse by police is "not an uncommon situation," said Judy Yupcavage, communications director for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. That organization works with law enforcement agencies to write protocols for handling abuse allegations against police.

Federal law bars anyone convicted of a domestic violence-related charge from carrying a firearm, said Lois Fasnacht, the coalition's criminal justice training specialist.

So the incident could have ended Cmdr. Trosky's career. But charges were dropped when his then-wife did not appear in court and when a blood alcohol test was ruled inadmissible.

"Right or wrong, people make mistakes," said police Cmdr. Scott Schubert. "You have to pay for the mistakes you have created. I think he's paid his dues.

"I don't condone any type of behavior like that, but from all accounts, he's had an exemplary career since that occurred," he added. "It's the chief's prerogative to put people in there he thinks will best push forward his mission."

Mr. Ravenstahl approved the pick.

"There are good times in careers and bad times in careers, and I think Cmdr. Trosky would be the first to acknowledge that," the mayor said. "But this decision was made based on a 30-year portfolio, not based on one or two incidents ... He's had letters of commendation. He's been Officer of the Month numerous times. Certainly the clearance rate in his work as a homicide detective, and his work there, has been admirable."

Cmdr. Trosky has gotten 15 letters of commendation from the bureau, and has been named Officer of the Month three times since 2000. As a homicide detective this year, he has cleared all of his cases, which Major Crimes Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki called "unprecedented among most detectives."

Information on Cmdr. Trosky's crime clearance rate last year wasn't immediately available.

City civil service rules were changed this year to allow the promotion from detective to commander. Previously, only lieutenants and sergeants could be considered for command posts.

Cmdr. Trosky said his experience as a sergeant prepares him for the command role. Asked whether the public should be confident that he's ready for the job, he said, "They're just going to watch my performance and judge for themselves."

Chief Harper said he would continue to consider detectives for command posts as they open up.

Cmdr. Trosky will be assigned to Zone 2, which stretches from Downtown through the Hill District and into Lawrenceville. The previous Zone 2 commander, Cheryl Doubt, will run the narcotics unit.

Tony Ceoffe, executive director of community group Lawrenceville United, said he has heard that the new commander is "a people-oriented person who takes care of his officers."

High on his agenda should be "loitering and open drug traffic on Centre Avenue, and we hope he's equipped to handle that," said Carl Redwood, convener of the Hill District Consensus Group.

"I'm very proud to accept this promotion," the new commander said, noting that his father was with the bureau for 28 years. "This means everything to me."

He then proceeded to a party with fellow officers at his Banksville home. He declined to submit to a detailed interview.

Also sworn in were newly promoted Lt. Charles A. Rodriguez and Sgts. Eugene F. Hlavac and Eric S. Churilla.


Staff writer Jonathan D. Silver contributed. Rich Lord can be reached at rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542.


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