Board urges suspension of city policemen
Marylynne Pitz, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
(PITTSBURGH, Penn) -- Two of the three police officers who arrested a city school board member during a 1999 protest outside PNC Park should be suspended without pay for 15 consecutive days.
That's the recommendation of the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board, which heard from several of the demonstrators last week, including Mark A. Brentley Sr., who was elected to the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education in 1999.
On July 13, 1999, Brentley joined about 70 people to demonstrate on behalf of the African American Workers Union. The union claimed black workers were excluded from seeking contracts or skilled labor positions in the construction of the new Pirates and Steelers stadiums.
A three-member panel of the review board ruled that Officer Donald Adamsky filed a false affidavit of probable cause, which allowed the Allegheny County district attorney's office to prosecute nine people, including Brentley, on charges of obstructing a public roadway.
It found that Sgt. Kurt Fischer neglected his duty because he failed to determine if operators of PNC Park's construction site had obtained a court order to limit or prohibit protests.
"If such an injunction would have been in force, the cops would have been perfectly within their rights to pick these guys up," said Charles A. Peters, who heard the testimony along with board members John Bingler and Marcia Hinton.
But, Peters added, none of the demonstrators had testified that Brentley ever blocked public roads at the site.
Adamsky, Fischer and Cmdr. Paul Donaldson attended last week's hearing in the company of their lawyer, Bryan Campbell. But the officers did not testify and Campbell did not cross-examine the prosecution's witnesses.
Campbell could not be reached for comment yesterday.
In June, all of the protesters were acquitted of obstructing public passages after Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Kathleen Durkin heard testimony and arguments for two hours. The judge found the protesters not guilty.
To Peters, Adamsky's actions are the most serious kind of misconduct.
"This wasn't just a falsified official report. This approached perjury. You're swearing that this is what happened. That's why the prosecution can go forward," Peters said.
Fischer and Adamsky need training on how to handle labor disputes, he said.
Board members also ruled that Donaldson failed to intervene, permitted the arrest of Brentley and failed to determine if operators had a court order to limit protesters. Donaldson was a lieutenant at the time of the incident.
The board dismissed an allegation that Donaldson supervised subordinate officers improperly.
Elizabeth C. Pittinger, executive director of the review board, said: "The biggest issue about this case is that the police officers did not present any evidence. They never rebutted those charges."
Police Chief Robert McNeilly, who ordered the officers to appear at the hearing, has 30 days to respond to the board's findings.
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