Citizen Police Review Board hears Pittsburgh teacher's arrest complaint


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A North Side teacher whose arrest by a Pittsburgh police officer last summer is now the subject of a federal lawsuit recounted his tale once again Thursday night -- this time before the Citizen Police Review Board.

Dennis Henderson, 38, a teacher at Manchester Academy Charter School, filed a complaint with the review board accusing the officer who arrested him, Jonathan Gromek, of violating several bureau policies, including those regarding use of force, conduct unbecoming of an officer, incompetency and truthfulness.

Officer Gromek charged Mr. Henderson in June with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and obstruction of highways, all of which the Allegheny County district attorney's office later withdrew.

The officer, dressed in his uniform, sat silently staring mostly ahead while Mr. Henderson recounted his version of events to the review board, which gathered inside the city council chamber.

Police union attorney Bryan Campbell said of Officer Gromek at the beginning of the proceedings, "He's here, but he's not going to testify."

Mr. Henderson told members of the review board that he attended a meeting at the Community Empowerment Association on Kelly Street in Homewood June 26 and left to fetch a business card from his car to hand to another man.

The pair were standing near his car, Mr. Henderson said, when Officer Gromek sped by in his patrol car, causing them to press up against his car.

"It was to the point where if you sneezed or flinched you were in danger of getting hit by the car," Mr. Henderson said.

He loudly said "Wow," Officer Gromek turned back around and Mr. Henderson asked for his name and badge number so he could file a complaint, according to his testimony.

Mr. Henderson said Officer Gromek ordered him to put his hands behind his back, handcuffed him and swept him to the ground, leaving him with a "pretty nice size bruise on my shoulder."

"The only thing I wanted to know at this time was why is this situation going on," Mr. Henderson said.

Officer Gromek wrote in the criminal complaint that Mr. Henderson grew agitated with him and resisted his efforts to arrest him and that, at some points, he worried that Mr. Henderson was calling for help and large crowds were starting to assemble. Mr. Henderson said that parts of Officer Gromek's report were inaccurate.

Top police bureau administrators recommended in November that Officer Gromek should receive a written reprimand after the city's Office of Municipal Investigations found that he violated bureau policies regarding conduct toward the public, conduct unbecoming of an officer and incompetency. The police union president criticized the punishment at the time as being too harsh.

Correction: Posted March 27, 2014: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated who made the recommendation for discipline against Officer Gromek.

 


Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil.

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