Pittsburgh police investigate why officers were outside patrol zone near time of Eat'n Park robbery

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Pittsburgh police said Monday they are investigating why two officers outside their normal patrol zone were at an Eat'n Park in Banksville around the time it was robbed last week and how they responded.

Police from the city's Zone 6 station in the West End were called to the Eat'n Park in the 1300 block of Banksville Road about 2 a.m. Thursday for a report of a robbery.

A store employee told police a man in a fake red beard passed her a note demanding money and she complied. The robber ran toward a nearby Days Inn and a black car was spotted in the area near the time of the robbery, police said.

Two officers from the city's Zone 2 station in the Hill District were outside the restaurant around the time it was robbed. What they were doing there and how, if at all, they responded to the robbery is unclear. Officials would not discuss those details.

Pittsburgh public safety spokeswoman Sonya Toler confirmed Monday that the bureau is conducting an internal investigation into the situation that will focus on why the officers were there and what happened.

"Right now, we're starting to investigate to find out exactly what was going on," Ms. Toler said. She would not name the officers but said they were on duty. She said she did not know their current status with the bureau.

On-duty officers must request the permission of a supervisor to leave their zone to get food, which can be difficult to find on an overnight shift, Ms. Toler said. She did not say whether the two officers from Zone 2 had requested a supervisor's permission to leave their normal patrol zone.

She declined to talk about bureau procedures outlining whether officers should respond to incidents outside their normal patrol zones.

"We have the expectation that our officers act in the best interest of public safety, whether they're on- or off-duty," she said.

A spokeswoman for Eat'n Park could not be reached late Monday, and a manager who was working at the store when it was robbed also could not be reached for comment.

The area where the Eat'n Park is located is covered by officers working in the city's Zone 6 station, which covers the West End, Beechview, Banksville and other neighborhoods. The Zone 2 station covers areas including Downtown, Lawrenceville, the Strip District and the Hill District.

Zone 6 Cmdr. Scott Schubert referred comment to Ms. Toler.

Officer Howard McQuillan, president of the Pittsburgh police union, declined comment.

Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. First Published June 2, 2014 6:41 PM

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