Ravenstahl plans to fire Pittsburgh police detective after South Side Taser incident

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Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said this morning that he plans to fire a police detective whose encounter with a man at a South Side bar was captured on video and has sparked allegations of excessive force.

"Somebody better give me a real good reason why he should not be fired," the mayor said. "It's just unacceptable and that's not the way police should be acting and my recommendation will be, unless there's other information that I haven't heard or seen, to terminate that police officer."

Saturday's incident involving Detective Frank Rende, who was working a security detail at Claddagh Irish Pub in South Side Works, is also under review by the Pittsburgh Office of Municipal Investigations.

Mayor says police officer in video should be fired

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said this morning he plans to fire a police detective whose encounter with a man at a South Side bar was captured on video and has sparked allegations of excessive force. (Video by Kalea Hall; 3/18/2013)

Raw video: Man clashes with Pittsburgh police

This video, taken by Sam Urick, of Moon, and posted to YouTube and LiveLeak.com, shows an altercation between a man and police officers. (3/17/2013)

The video shows Detective Rende ordering Mark Keyser, who was later arrested, from the bar. Mr. Keyser is leaving when Detective Rende walks after him, Taser in hand.

It's unclear what happens when they encounter one another, but Mr. Keyser falls suddenly to the ground.

Detective Rende wrote in a criminal complaint that he did not use the Taser, but threatened to. He claimed Mr. Keyser tripped.

In an email from police bureau spokeswoman Diane Richard, acting Chief Regina McDonald said "It has been determined that the Taser was not utilized and everything else remains under investigation."

She declined comment further, calling it "an internal personnel issue."

The mayor indicated this morning he may terminate Detective Rende whether or not he deployed his Taser.

"Regardless, in my mind, od whether the Taser went off, the officer was clearly wrong ... from what I saw on the video," he said.

He plans to meet with Chief McDonald and Public Safety Director Mike Huss to discuss the matter today but was nearly certain he would call for Detective Rende's termination.

Detective Rende has a checkered history in the bureau that contains at least a dozen accusations of conduct unbecoming an officer, including verbal abuse and excessive force.

One of the most serious was a 1999 incident in which he returned, after his shift ended, to the home of a female caller in the South Side and engaged in a sex act with her, according to an OMI report.

In 2011, he was one of the officers who subdued a rowdy fan at PNC Park with a Taser and strikes from a nightstick, after which a Fraternal Order of Police attorney said the use of force was proper.

He also responded to an incident at PNC Park last year in which a security supervisor lost his finger.

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Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 and on Twitter: @MoriahBee. First Published March 18, 2013 4:00 AM


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