Promoter Don Patterson of Penn Hills could not believe his eyes while watching this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. As he watched members of the Pittsburgh Police march by in their dress blues, behind them were about 70 officers wearing Green T-shirts that read “3599” on the front, and, “We Support Our Three Brothers,” on the back.
The three brothers are officers Michael Saldutte, David Sisak and Richard Ewing, who allegedly beat CAPA High School senior Jordan Miles during a Jan. 12 arrest near his home. The 3599 refers to the unmarked car the plainclothes officers drove that night.
“I was Downtown and I saw those shirts—it was unbelievable,” he said. “They were happy, smiling and looked like some paramilitary outfit. It was like I was watching an old Ku Klux Klan movie. Somebody has to call (Chief) Nate Harper because that’s a disgrace.”
When asked about the shirts, Harper said the officers were expressing their First Amendment rights and in that respect he had no problem with the display.
Joanna Doven, spokesperson for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, said he had no comment on the shirts.
One Hood founder Paradise Gray went looking for the officers with his own sign that said, “I am Jordan Miles,” but he arrived too late to confront them.
“I knew they were going to be here with the shirts, but I missed them,” he said. “I wanted to respond.”
Black Political Empowerment Project founder Tim Stevens, who helped organize a January student march to city council in support of Miles was livid.
“For them to do what they did on Saturday was despicable,” he said “You would think this young man had beaten them to a pulp.”
The T-shirts were ordered by the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1, and sold to officers for $12. The show of support came after District Magistrate Oscar Petite dismissed the charges against Miles, March 4.
“Obviously myself and all the members of the Fraternal Order of Police are very upset about Judge Petite’s decision to throw out the charges against Jordan Miles,” said FOP Vice President Charles Hanlon. “They’re destroyed. I have three of the hardest working Pittsburgh police officers that saw their careers take a dive.”
The three officers remain on paid leave, pending the results of investigations by the police bureau’s Office of Municipal Investigation and the FBI.
“We fully support these three officers and brothers and we want the entire city of Pittsburgh to know that,” said FOP President Dan O’Hara.
Pittsburgh Councilman Rev. Rickey Burgess, said he was distressed by the police display. During the March 16 council session Burgess introduced bills calling for the police to submit an annual public report on its activities and problems, and for the Citizen Police Review Board to investigate all incidents in which police use of force results in death or serious injury. The bill would prohibit the police chief from making a final decision about discipline in such cases until the board submits its findings.
On March 16, O’Hara announced the three officers had passed a lie detector test given by a private administrator three days earlier, during the parade.
“They have been telling the truth all along,” he said. “They hesitated to take the tests only because they didn’t want to set the precedent so that every time an officer is accused of excessive force, people are calling for them to take a polygraph test.”
Miles also passed a polygraph administered by the FBI. The three officers have not yet been interviewed by the bureau.
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