Prosecute the torture.

December 22, 2009

Here We Go Again -- Pittsburgh Police and Domestic Violence


Pittsburgh Police Sgt. Eugene Hlavac

"He will enjoy a wonderful Christmas dinner. She's going to drink hers through a straw..."
...... - Jeanne Clarke, National Organization for Women, after Sgt. Eugene Hlavac's preliminary hearing in downtown Municipal Court.

If Hlavac's name sounds familiar it's because many of you may recall the controversy which erupted back in June 2007 when three Pittsburgh City Police Officers (Cmdr. George T. Trosky, Lt. Charles Rodriguez, and Sgt. Eugene F. Hlavac) who had a history of domestic abuse run-ins were promoted by Police Chief Nate Harper with the approval of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. The uproar from the promotions (mostly by advocates for women) led to Pittsburgh City Council passing legislation on domestic violence by police officers.

When Hlavac was originally promoted in 2007 he had had police called to his home for reports of loud arguments with the mother of his child, Lauren Noel Maughan. On Saturday he was charged with aggravated assault against Maughan:
According to the complaint, Ms. Maughan was late to pick up their son at Sgt. Hlavac's house in Greenfield Friday after her car broke down. When she arrived, she said she and Sgt. Hlavac, who was in uniform and preparing to leave for work, began arguing in front of his house, the complaint states. She said they scuffled briefly after he slapped her and she grabbed him, the complaint states.

Ms. Maughan said she was in pain and threatened to call the police, the complaint said. She said he took her cell phone and told her, "You're not doing this. You're not ruining my life," according to the complaint.

She said she left to go to the hospital after telling Sgt. Hlavac she would say she hurt her face in a fall.

According to the complaint, Sgt. Hlavac met her at Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville and told a doctor, "She's always getting hurt, she fell down her steps and tripped and may have hit her wall." The doctor determined that Ms. Maughan had partially dislocated her jaw, according to the complaint.
According to WTAE:
An emergency room doctor didn't believe the story, and eventually, the woman told police her injury was caused by Hlavac.
As of yesterday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported:
Pittsburgh police officials have not determined whether to change a sergeant's work status following his weekend arrest for hitting his ex-girlfriend.
Apparently Hlavac is on vacation until January and "If there is discipline, he would be disciplined when he returned to work..."

Nice!

This does not seem to jib with Pennsylvania's Confidence in Law Enforcement Act which states:

23 Except in the case of a member of the Pennsylvania State
24 Police, a law enforcement officer charged with an offense that
25 would prohibit employment under section 3 shall be immediately
26 suspended from employment in law enforcement AS A LAW
27 ENFORCEMENT OFFICER until final disposition of the charge or
28 upon acceptance into a program of Accelerated Rehabilitative
29 Disposition, whichever occurs first.

What would constitute prohibition from employment? According to the City of Pittsburgh:
CRIMINAL HISTORY:
Conviction of a felony or serious misdemeanor is disqualifying unless applicant has been pardoned. Other behavior, which is incompatible with the duties and responsibilities of the position of Police Officer, may also be disqualifying.
Notice again, that suspension only requires being CHARGED and that the Confidence in Law Enforcement Act defines "serious misdemeanor" as being "A criminal offense for which more than one year in prison can be imposed as a punishment."

While Hlavac's charges were reduced today from aggravated assault (a felony) to simple assault (a misdemeanor), in PA a misdemeanor assault can still result in up to 2 years in prison.

So, I have to ask:

Why has Hlavac not been suspended?

Moreover, the legislation passed by Pittsburgh City Council states the following under "Supervisor Responsibilities":
(a) Supervisors shall be cognizant of and document any pattern of abusive behavior potentially indicative of domestic violence including, but not limited to the following:

i. Aggressiveness
a. Excessive and/or increased use of force on the job.
b. Stalking and inappropriate surveillance activities.
c. Unusually high incidences of physical altercations and verbal disputes.
d. Citizen and fellow officer complaints of unwarranted aggression and verbal abuse.
e. Inappropriate treatment of animals.
f. On-or off-duty officer injuries.
So between his promotion and his recent charges, has Hlavac had any, say, PROBLEMS like those listed above?

The answer is a big fat YES. From the Pittsburgh City Paper:
Hlavac has previously been faulted for his performance on the job as well: specifically, a series of arrests stemming from a 2006 bicyclist demonstration. When the city's police review board tried to question him about the matter, Hlavac tuned out the proceeding by playing an iPod loudly enough that others could hear it. The review board upheld complaints against Hlavac, but these were dismissed by police brass, who said they'd already disciplined him.
So there you have it -- a Pittsburgh police sergeant who has had the police called to his own home for loud arguments on multiple occasions; who has had the Citizen Police Review Board "recommended that [he] be suspended for seven days, undergo retraining and anger management, and possibly face prosecution by the district attorney" in 2006 (which never was followed through on); and who now stands accused of dislocating a women's jaw and charged with assault.

And, he's STILL not suspended.

What the hell?

Back in 2007 when Hlavac was promoted, the Pittsburgh Police asked us to trust their judgment:
Pittsburgh police on Thursday asked that city residents give three recently promoted officers a chance.

"I'm particularly asking women to look at what we've done in the past," Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson said at a late afternoon news conference. "We've worked for years with women and women's groups to protect women. You've trusted us before. We're asking you to trust us again."

[snip]

James Malloy, president of Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1, asked that people treat the officers fairly.

"It isn't like they're mashers, beating somebody's brains in," he said. "They're conscientious. They have good records. We have no issue whatsoever with this. They're not going to be brain surgeons.
No brains beaten in -- just a dislocated jaw.

[sigh]

The brass needs to listen to the Citizen Police Review Board this time:
"We want them to suspend him -- all of his police powers -- until such time as this is resolved," said Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizen Police Review Board. "That is required under state law so they better do that. We expect that they will."

Damn Straight!


******************************************************************************

Related:

  • Jeanne Clark's tweets on todays' hearing here

  • "Women's group urges mayor to 'take action' against city officer" (P-G)

  • "[PA] Is the domestic abuse of Pittsburgh Police Sgt. Hvalac violent enough yet to be taken seriously?" (Behind the Blue Wall)

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  • 10 comments:

    Ol' Froth said...

    Hate to say it, but I bet this is an economic issue. The suspension, prior to final disposition, would probably be WITH pay, so the city would basically be giving this guy a paid vacation by suspending him. From their viewpoint, better to have him drive a desk while awaiting a decision.

    Maria said...

    So the police should break the law?

    EdHeath said...

    I disagree with Froth, I think the calculation here is political, not economic (particularly not if the economics involved is one officer's pay; now if Hlavac was threatening to sue, then maybe). I suspect that Ravenstahl is thinking that if you asked likely voters (around here, people over fifty), they would not express strong outrage over Sergeant Hlavac's actions, or at least those males over fifty might not. One constituency that might care is City Council. It would be interesting to see what hey would have to say about this.

    Georgia said...

    Ordinary citizens are required to obey the law, any law - what this incident says is that the police are above the law. Is this who we want our wonderful city to be?

    Heir to the Throne said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Heir to the Throne said...

    I think the calculation here is political
    Ed, You are half correct. Ravenstahl is pandering to the Police union.

    Like the Chicago Police union fought to prevent the firing of the cop Anthony Abbate after beating a female bartender.

    EdHeath said...

    HTTP, actually, I don't see where the Chicago Tribune blames the union for it taking more that a couple of years to fire this cop. In fact it said he had been suspended since April of 2007. Not that I am saying police unions have not been obstructionist about this sort of thing in the past, or that they won't be in the future. Still, minorities and women (who are more of a majority these days) are starting to show up in greater numbers on the police force, and may have the effect of reducing the obstructionist stand of the unions.

    Luke may well be pandering a bit to the union, since as I say he might be calculating that those people who are upset about this incident don't vote (either period or at least not for him) and don't donate money to his campaign anyway, so he loses nothing. If the Mayor takes/took a strong stand on domestic violence, the police union might give the Mayor less or no money, and might tell its members not to vote for the Mayor. I don't know how much police union members care about what the union says, but even if they thought about staying home on election day, the Mayor would probably like to avoid that.

    Ol' Froth said...

    Maria, I am NOT advocating breaking the law, which states that he cannot function as a police officer. That doesn't mean he can't function in an administrative capacity, i.e., a desk job until this is resolved.

    Maria said...

    State law says he should be suspended, but apparently moot now as he's been fired.

    Ol' Froth said...

    Yes, I see that too!