South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Austin Vaught
Contributing Writer 

Office of Municipal Investigations explains process the complaint process

 

September 17, 2019



Carrick residents learned the process for submitting formal complaints about police officers and other city employees during a presentation from the City of Pittsburgh’s Office of Municipal Investigations (OMI) at last Monday’s meeting of the Carrick / Overbrook Block Watch at 25 Carrick Avenue.

According to municipal investigator Erin Bruni, the OMI handles between 250 and 300 complaints per year, and the majority of those complaints are against police officers.

Ms. Bruni said if a resident has a negative encounter with any City of Pittsburgh employee, the resident should file a complaint by calling 412-255-2804. Complaints can also be faxed to 412-255-2952.

After submitting a complaint, the resident will be connected to an intake coordinator who can help identify the employee. The case is then assigned to an investigator to gather details about the incident.

Investigators may review footage from officer body cameras, gather witnesses, or revisit the scene of the incident before meeting with the accused employee to hear their side of the story.

“We consider the citizen and officer to be equal in terms of credibility until we find evidence that discredits one party,” Ms. Bruni said.

Cases are usually resolved within 120 days. If the investigation results in a sustained disposition, the complaint is sent to police headquarters where discipline is assigned based on the magnitude of the incident. The OMI is not involved in the disciplinary process.

Ms. Bruni said the number of serious police complaints such as racial profiling, illegal search and seizure, and excessive force have declined over the last 20 years, but complaints about attitude and demeanor, are on the rise.

“There has been an uptick in verbal complaints,” Ms. Bruni said. “[Such as] I don’t like the way he spoke to me. Unprofessional, condescending tones.”

The official mission of the OMI is to prevent future incidents by encouraging proper training and taking corrective action when training is ignored.

In addition to Ms. Bruni’s OMI presentation, Zone 3 officer Christine Luffey informed the block watch of several criminal incidents that took place in August across Carrick and Overbrook.

“I have seven cases that I’d like to share with all of you and they definitely impact your community,” officer Luffey said. “We want you to know that we are working hard to make a difference.”

The first case described the arrest of a 30-year-old male after detectives received a tip that he was selling heroin laced with fentanyl in Carrick.

According to the report, undercover officers were able to obtain the suspect’s phone number and arranged the purchase of 24 bags of heroin at a location in Leolyn Park. When the suspect arrived on the scene, he was arrested and charged with possession with intent to deliver and driving with a suspended license.

Next, officer Luffey addressed a robbery that took place at the Burger King on Brownsville Road on August 16 at 7 a.m.

An African American male and female, both carrying guns, entered the restaurant and gathered employees in a central location. After forcing the manager to open the safe, the suspects collected an undisclosed amount of cash and fled the scene. Officer Luffey said detectives are working very hard to solve this particular case.

Detectives arrested a 33-year-old male suspect on August 20 at a residence in the 1900 block of Westmont Avenue. Officers were initially dispatched to the home after receiving a report of an overdose. While on the scene, police entered a shed in the rear of the building with the permission of a tenant. Heroin was discovered on a table inside the shed.

Two days later, police received reports someone fired shots at the same building in the 1900 block of Westmont Avenue. Officers discovered multiple bullet holes in the building and one shell casing on the road. The incident is under investigation.

A 20-year-old male was arrested after police executed a search warrant at a home in the 100 block of Overbrook Boulevard on August 24 at 6 a.m. After searching the home, police discovered a stolen handgun, two bricks and one bundle of heroin, Oxycodone, $2,200 in cash, and two digital scales.

A male and a female were walking in the 200 block of Spencer Avenue on August 25 at around 4:30 p.m. when they saw a driver in a red Toyota sedan fail to stop at a stop sign.

The female yelled something at the driver, and the male suspect stopped, put the vehicle in reverse, and drove backwards towards the couple. The suspect allegedly pointed a gun at the female and threatened her. Police are investigating.

Police responded to a 9-1-1 call reporting a man stabbed in the 1500 block of Nobles Lane at 2:15 a.m. on September 5. After investigating, police believe the female caller knew the victim and committed the stabbing. She was later arrested.

“As you can see, this is just the tip of the iceberg,” officer Luffey said. “If I would have brought every report from Carrick and Overbrook it would have been a long night. I try to pick and choose the ones that have the most impact on the community.”

Following the crime report, a resident complained about ongoing public safety issues with the abandoned apartment building on Berg Place.

Officer Luffey confirmed Zone 3 police have increased patrols around Berg Place and have made several trespassing arrests over the last several months.

Near the end of the meeting, Ernest Rajakone from Mayor Bill Peduto’s office made several announcements.

The city of Pittsburgh is looking for volunteers to support the Great Race on September 20. Residents can sign-up at http://www.rungreatrace.com.

The third City of Pittsburgh Garbage Olympics will take place on Saturday September 21 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Residents can email garbageolympics@gmail.com to register a neighborhood for the contest.

Carrick Community Council (CCC) board president Sherry Brown announced the quarterly CCC meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 23 at 25 Carrick Avenue. Details about the upcoming board elections will be discussed at the meeting.

The next Carrick / Overbrook Block Watch meeting will feature an active shooter safety course and will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 7 at 25 Carrick Avenue.

 

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