Friday, June 29, 2007
By Jonathan D. Silver and Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A police sergeant's June 18 promotion came three months after he was sent to anger management training and a supervisor recommended that his contact with the public be minimized.
Police leadership yesterday said that now-Sgt. Eugene F. Hlavac completed the training but was never removed from contact with the public and that the measure shouldn't have precluded his promotion.
"When they go to anger management, and get some sort of counseling, that's taken into consideration," Police Chief Nate Harper said. "If he would have continued to have anger issues, it would definitely be taken into consideration" in the promotion decision -- but he didn't.
Sgt. Hlavac's promotion is one of three that have sparked concern that was heard yesterday during a two-hour City Council public hearing. He and new Cmdr. George Trosky and Lt. Charles Rodriguez have all faced charges of verbal or violent domestic abuse.
The promotions are "appalling. They're insulting to the citizens of Pittsburgh," said Jeanne Clark, a member of the state board of the National Organization for Women and a Squirrel Hill resident. She was among 150 people at the hearing, including Chief Harper. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl did not attend.
"Clearly the police brass has no idea about the impact and the law regarding domestic violence," she said. "It kills women. It kills men."
Chief Harper listened to the two dozen speakers, then said he did not regret the promotions, instead faulting a public tendency to "accuse people" of things that have not been proved, adding that "the public has the right to their opinion."
Police officials have said that Sgt. Hlavac's domestic problems have been verbal, not violent.
A police report on a Jan. 3 incident states that Sgt. Raymond Hutton was called to the East Liberty apartment shared by Sgt. Hlavac and Lauren Maughan at 1:40 a.m.
Ms. Maughan told Sgt. Hutton that Sgt. Hlavac pulled her hair, hauled her from a bed and grabbed her wrist, according to the report. She was uninjured, but her left wrist and the back of her neck were red.
Sgt. Hlavac told Sgt. Hutton that he grabbed her wrist in self-defense when she hit him while holding a cell phone, and did not grab her hair, just her pillow.
On March 22, Sgt. Hlavac's supervisor at the time, Lt. Philip Dacey, said he witnessed an argument at the apartment, but there was no physical contact.
The next day, Sgt. Hlavac's boss, Zone 5 Cmdr. RaShall Brackney, recommended he be removed from active duty, undergo counseling and that his contact with the public be minimized when he returned.
The paperwork went to Assistant Chief William Bochter and Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson, both of whom signed off on the memo without comment.
Deputy Chief Donaldson said Sgt. Hlavac complied with the order to attend three days of anger management counseling.
"We never took him out of contact with the public," Chief Harper said. "We sent him to Zone 2" in the Hill District, where, the chief acknowledged, there is frequent contact with the public.
Chief Harper said there has been no decision on whether to reverse the promotions, which would involve demoting the men. Nor has the administration settled on any changes to promotion rules, which the mayor has said lack clear guidance on when an officer who is in line for a higher post can be passed over.
Fraternal Order of Police leadership has said the union will sue if the promotions are reversed or civil service rules altered.
"The issue isn't going away, and the FOP is not the only group that can sue," Ms. Clark warned at the hearing.
Shirl Regan, executive director of the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, asked that the city adopt a domestic violence policy that would affect promotions and require that the Allegheny County district attorney investigate all abuse calls to police officers' homes. She called for "immediate in-service training to all city police officers," and said the bureau should buy digital cameras for all squad cars so that officers can gather evidence on domestic violence cases.
Charles Hanlon, recording secretary for the FOP, was one of a few who spoke on behalf of the officers. He said the men were "promoted on just causes. ... These three men have just been accused. They have not been convicted."
Mr. Ravenstahl has said that he did not know of the issues involving Sgt. Hlavac and Lt. Rodriguez prior to their promotions.
Michele Cunko, former director of the city Civil Service Commission, said at the hearing that the chief had "an absolute right" to pass over any of the men for promotion. "We don't want police officers to think that this kind of behavior is rewarded with a promotion."
Rich Lord can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1542. Jonathan D. Silver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1962. )