Pittsburgh police officer selected as liaison to public safety director

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A Pittsburgh police officer has been selected to be a liaison to the public safety director, a temporary position for which there is not yet a job description.

Officer Michelle Auge, 38, began her first day in the position working at the bureau’s North Side headquarters.

Pittsburgh public safety spokeswoman Sonya Toler said Officer Auge, who recently worked in the bureau’s Zone 5 station in Highland Park, volunteered for the position. Exactly what it will entail is unclear, but she will remain a union employee.

“The job description hasn’t been created. She does not yet have an office space,” Ms. Toler said. “There’s nothing that I can truly say just yet, other than the position will be working with our Safer Together Project and our [Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime] project. How that will look, I don’t know.”

The Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime, also know as PIRC, is a pro-active effort in part working with gang members to reduce violence. The Safer Together Project is similar to the old Weed & Seed program.

Officer Auge, who could not be reached for comment, was in the headlines last year when she was injured in a chase and shooting that left her partner paralyzed. Ms. Toler said Officer Auge will continue to receive the same salary she received before, noting that this is not a promotion but rather a temporary reassignment by acting public safety director Stephen Bucar.

She said Mr. Bucar was not available for comment Monday.

Ms. Toler refused to say whether other officers were considered for the role and what criteria were used in her selection.

Officers in various parts of the police bureau say they were not aware the city was looking for a police liaison to the public safety director until they learned that Officer Auge had been selected late last week.

“I wish you would say accurately that we were not ready to make any kind of statements about the position. We were hoping that we would have a little more time,” Ms. Toler said.

Representatives of the Pittsburgh police union said they, too, knew little about the position but welcomed its creation and the selection of Officer Auge.

“I think it just shows the way [Mr. Bucar] is trying to bridge the gap” between his office and the officers, said Fraternal Order of Police President Howard McQuillan.

Vice President Jim Glick said of Officer Auge, “I know she’s a good officer. She’s a good person. She does well with people.”

Detective Glick said when he and Officer McQuillan learned of the new post, their first thought was, “That’s not a bad idea.”

Officer Auge joined the force in 2003 and was previously a Pittsburgh Passion football player. She was treated for two broken fingers and a fractured facial bone after a chase and shooting in April 2013 that left her partner that night, Officer Morgan Jenkins, paralyzed.

Officer Auge was charged in 2006 with assault after police said she struck an ex-boyfriend, Mark Gruber, in the face. The outcome of her case does not appear in current court records.

Mr. Gruber, who died several years ago, was charged with assault in the same incident, during which police said he pushed Officer Auge to the ground, causing cuts and scrapes on her leg. Court records show officials withdrew that charge against him.

Ms. Toler said, “Any issues from the officer’s past are irrelevant to her volunteering for this assignment.”

Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. First Published June 30, 2014 2:18 PM

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