Firing of Irwin police chief leaves unanswered questions

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Irwin council voted unanimously Thursday night to fire the borough's police chief.

Chief Joe Pocsatko was placed on paid medical leave after he injured his hand during a confrontation in October and later received a doctor's permission to return to work, but council opted to put him on paid administrative leave at the end of December while the borough investigated "some situations in his career," Mayor Dan Rose said in an interview earlier this month.

He said council hired an investigator to look into "a number of incidents" involving Mr. Pocsatko, who has been an Irwin officer for 13 years and chief for three years,

"This is a very serious situation going on here," Mr. Rose said before apologizing for not being able to provide more information.

Chief Pocsatko, who did not attend Thursday night's meeting, said in a phone interview Friday that his firing was "retaliatory" because the chief filed three complaints against the mayor to council in mid-September. He wouldn't comment on the details of those complaints.

He said he intends to file an appeal with the state Civil Service Commission.

For now, Officer Dan Wensel will serve as chief, Mr. Rose said.

The Irwin Police Department has two full-time officers and 10 officers on the part-time roster, though not all are given hours, Officer Wensel said.

Borough solicitor Lawrence Kerr referred questions to Campbell, Durrant, Beatty, Palombo & Miller attorney Gretchen Love, who Mr. Kerr said will be handling the case for the borough. She did not return a call seeking comment. Mr. Kerr also referred questions to Chief Pocsatko's lawyer, Ronald Retsch, who also did not return calls.

neigh_westmoreland

Annie Siebert: asiebert@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert. Freelance writer Anne Cloonan contributed.


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