About three weeks after Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl expressed frustration with the conduct of some public safety workers, City Council voted tentatively Wednesday to pay $170,000 to settle two lawsuits accusing police officers of abusing their authority.
Both federal suits were filed last year.
Daniel A. Hackett III, of Mt. Lebanon, said police manhandled him and arrested him under false pretenses because of a caustic remark he made after a traffic stop on the South Side in March 2008. Council voted to settle the case for $155,000.
Danielle Fortunato of Collier said an officer "offensively touched" and battered her while removing her from a South Side dance club in January 2009. Council voted to settle that case for $15,000.
Both suits claimed the incidents reflected a continuing pattern of misconduct by city police officers.
Though he wasn't addressing these cases, Mr. Ravenstahl on May 5 said he was frustrated by "the increasing trend of firefighters and police officers being involved in unacceptable incidents."
He made the remark following police Detective Bradley Walker's arrest after a reported road-rage incident, but in recent years, a string of police officers and firefighters has been arrested or disciplined for offenses ranging from domestic abuse to vehicle theft.
Councilman Bruce Kraus, who represents the South Side, said the Hackett and Fortunato cases reinforce the need for better management of the neighborhood's entertainment district.
According to Mr. Hackett's suit, after police stopped him for failing to use his turn signal on East Carson Street, Mr. Hackett parked his car and got out.
He said he observed a man urinating on a building and nearly was run down by a vehicle that ran a red light.
As Mr. Hackett passed a police car -- the suit doesn't say whether it was the same one that stopped him -- he complained about receiving a citation when other offenses went unpunished.
The suit said Officer Edward Cunningham, one of the officers in the car Mr. Hackett walked past, followed him into a convenience store, spun him around and demanded his identification. Mr. Hackett said Officer Cunningham then pointed a Taser at him.
He said he was forced outside the store, where the Taser was used on him several times, was handcuffed and taken to a hospital for treatment. Mr. Hackett said he later was acquitted of all charges.
In a response to the suit, the city denied wrongdoing, saying police used the Taser on Mr. Hackett because he resisted arrest for disorderly conduct.
Ms. Fortunato's suit centered on the actions of an off-duty officer, Mark Stephenson, who was working a security detail, in uniform, at a Station Square club in January 2009.
She said she walked outside after becoming light-headed and was denied re-entry by an employee, even though she had left a jacket inside.
Eventually, she said, the employee summoned Officer Stephenson to escort her from the property. According to the suit, he picked her up and slung her over his shoulder, lifting her skirt in the process. She said he held onto her buttocks while carrying her to the curb, then dropped her there.
In court papers, the city said Ms. Fortunato refused to move when Officer Stephenson tried to take her wrist to escort her away. It said the officer then used a "fireman's carry" to remove her.
When he attempted to put her down, the city said, she kneed him the groin, causing him to drop her.
Ms. Fortunato was found not guilty of defiant trespass in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court. A district judge dismissed a charge of public drunkenness.
The police department did not immediately respond for comment about the proposed settlements or say where Officers Cunningham and Stephenson are assigned.
Joe Smydo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1548.