Police like to say they handle cases by the book, but there may not be a chapter covering the August disappearance of 3-day-old Bryce Coleman from Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC -- nor for the means Pittsburgh police used to recover the child.
Sgt. Cristyn Zett and officers Thomas Gorecki, William Churilla, Michael Lafferty and Brittany Miles identified suspect Breona Moore and interviewed her family members. They had the family use Facebook to reach out to Ms. Moore, who then placed a phone call. The call was traced to a Downtown building, which officers then searched. Ms. Moore and the baby were found in a stairwell closet.
That kind of quick thinking and flexible use of new tools was a running theme at the Law Enforcement Agency Directors awards ceremony Friday, where Sgt. Zett's team and many individual and group efforts were honored.
This year is the 15th for the LEAD awards, meant to highlight initiative and cooperation among the region's police and agents of various agencies. They are awarded by a committee of the region's top law enforcement officials, who meet monthly to talk about legal issues, crime patterns and strategies for protecting communities, said U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton, who welcomed the officers and families to the awards ceremony at the University of Pittsburgh's Barco Law Building.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James T. Kitchen and a cyber crimes team were told that the emailed bomb threats forcing near daily evacuations at the University of Pittsburgh could never be traced, said FBI Special Agent in Charge Gary Perdue. They proved the experts wrong by serving search warrants on internet service providers in the United States and Europe, leading to charges of threats and international extortion against Scottish nationalist Adam Stuart Busby.
Other LEAD award winners included FBI Agent Matthew B. Solomon, who led an investigation of the Allegheny County Jail that brought three prosecutions for civil rights violations and related crimes; members of a Drug Enforcement Administration task force who cracked the Gary Moorefield cocaine and heroin ring; U.S. Postal Inspector Steven J. Celletti whose tracking of parcels led to the bust of a major marijuana trafficking operation; a Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms team that arrested six suspects in the Jeannette arsons; Allegheny County Sheriff's Office Detective Bart Hennessy, who traced the gun used to kill Lower Burrell Police Officer Derek Kotecki; Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Smolar and a Homeland Security Investigations team that prosecuted a child pornography collector who had become active in local youth sports, and others.
The keynote speaker was Patrick Fitzgerald, former U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois who prosecuted two governors and many terrorists.
He raised a concern about dogma in law enforcement. Police, agents and prosecutors "fall for the notion that we can stick a label on something and it will allow us to control things," he said.
He noted a sentiment held by some in government that terror suspects should not be read their Miranda rights, but said he handled cases in which a decision not to inform an arrested radical of the right to remain silent might have meant they "walked out the door" because they couldn't be successfully proscuted.
Rich Lord: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1542 or Twitter @richelord.