Head of police review board miffed

Police promotions drawing criticism

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The head of the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board believes two officers who had run-ins with the law this year over domestic problems should not have been promoted Monday.

Charles Rodriguez, who was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant, has a pending criminal case in Ingram, where police charged him with simple assault for an April incident with his daughter.

Eugene F. Hlavac, who was elevated to sergeant from patrolman, was the subject of two police responses to his home this year after he argued with his girlfriend.

"I don't think they should have been promoted until that air is cleared," Elizabeth Pittinger, the review board's executive director, said yesterday.

"If you are the subject of a criminal investigation, I think any personnel action should be suspended until that criminal matter is resolved," Ms. Pittinger said. "As far as domestic violence goes, this department has to have zero tolerance for it."

City Council President Doug Shields said the promotions raised questions, especially in light of a 1997 federal consent decree the Pittsburgh Police Bureau signed after the U.S. Justice Department said it could prove a "pattern and practice" of police misconduct. The decree has since been lifted.

"It's very important that, in my opinion, you would not want to reopen and revisit the door by bringing these promotions forward at this time," Mr. Shields said.

"Hopefully, they distinguish themselves. Hopefully, they are the best police officers in the world," he continued. "But the unfortunate thing is that the public isn't going to view it that way, and it's going to raise eyebrows, and it begins to question the integrity of what we're trying to do here as a city."

Mr. Shields said he hoped Mayor Luke Ravenstahl "would more fully vet the candidate, or more fully discuss, or give a good reason as to why this would happen. It's one more thing for this administration to have to answer to."

A third officer who was promoted, George T. Trosky, went from homicide detective to commander.

In January, Chief Nathan Harper, a longtime friend of Cmdr. Trosky, lobbied the Civil Service Commission to change its rules that previously permitted only sergeants or lieutenants to be bumped up to commander.

In 1989, Cmdr. Trosky was videotaped beating a Grateful Dead fan. He was charged internally with using excessive force. A trial board cleared him.

Cmdr. Trosky was arrested in 1997 for breaking his then-wife's nose and drunken driving. The former charge was dropped when his ex-wife did not show up in court and the latter was dismissed when his blood alcohol test was deemed inadmissible. Nevertheless, he was demoted over the incident, from sergeant to patrolman.

Mr. Ravenstahl has defended the Trosky promotion, citing letters of commendation and the commander's work in homicide.

Yesterday, the mayor deferred to comments made Monday by Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson, who said it was happenstance that three of four officers promoted had domestic issues, and those problems did not make them bad officers.

Fraternal Order of Police President James J. Malloy defended the officers.

"I think there's an awful lot of prejudgment that's being done on all three of these individuals," said Mr. Malloy, a retired sergeant.

"They're excellent police officers, they're conscientious. You've got to give them a chance to succeed, and they will -- all three of them will."

Cmdr. Catherine McNeilly took the opposite stance, echoing comments by Ms. Pittinger that promotions should be postponed for officers with pending criminal cases or domestic problems that rise to the level of police being called.

She also said she privately expressed concerns to Chief Harper about Cmdr. Trosky because she felt it was unfair to promote him instead of longtime sergeants and lieutenants who had the experience for the position.

"I think that every supervisor on the job has been slapped in the face because of this promotion," Cmdr. McNeilly said.

"Everyone who has never received discipline, who has never been arrested for domestic violence, for DUI, for excessive force, everyone who has gone to school, who has been promoted through the ranks, who has done a good job, who has done everything right in the hopes of achieving promotions the right way, has gotten the wrong message here, and that's what distresses me," she added.

Jonathan D. Silver can be reached at jsilver@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1962. Rich Lord can be reached at rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542.


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