PROFILED—Courier photographer Rossano P. Stewart and teacher Dennis Henderson (rear) lay handcuffed after a June run-in with Pittsburgh Police Officer Richard Gromek. (Photo by Elwin Green)
Two months after Pittsburgh police Officer Jonathan Gromek arrested teacher Dennis Henderson and handcuffed New Pittsburgh Courier photographer Rossano Stewart after speeding past and nearly striking them with his patrol car in Homewood, Zone 5 police Cmdr. Timothy O’Connor said Gromek was wrong, and the incident “should have been handled in a different way.”
For saying that, O’Connor had a copy of the New Pittsburgh Courier’s report of his remarks slipped under his office door with a note saying, “We Thought You Had Our Back.”
The disgruntled officers who did that, however, will probably not be sending the same note to the Office of Municipal Investigations, which last month backed O’Connor’s assessment with the release of its report on Gromek’s actions. It upheld Henderson’s complaint and cited Gromek for multiple policy and procedure violations.
On her Facebook page, Citizens for Police Accountability Founder Brandi Fisher called the incident a blatant example of racial profiling and congratulated Henderson for having his OMI complaint upheld.
“We already got him off our streets. Now its time for him to be disciplined and time for us to focus on his being charged and Mr. Henderson being compensated for his suffering,” she wrote. “Soon the statement that Pittsburgh police can get away with anything will be a thing of the past.”
As the Courier reported June 30, Stewart said he and Henderson were standing alongside Henderson’s vehicle on Kelly Street after a meeting, talking and exchanging business cards, when the officer traveled towards them at a rapid speed, almost hitting them.
It is unsure if the officer heard a comment or saw their expressions, but Stewart said when the officer got to the corner, he made a U-turn, drove up to them and asked, “Do you have a problem with the way I’m driving? If you have a problem, you can file a report.”
Stewart said when Henderson began asking the officer for his name and badge number, the officer threatened them with a citation for obstructing traffic and then placed them under arrest and handcuffed them. He said the officer was verbally aggressive and even swept Henderson’s legs from under him to get him on the ground.
After explaining the incident to a Lieutenant he knew, Stewart was released. Henderson was charged with disorderly conduct. That charge was dismissed at a hearing 10 days later.
Police Spokesperson Diane Richard could only say Acting Chief Regina McDonald had received the OMI’s report and was reviewing it, but hadn’t yet taken any disciplinary action against Gromek.
“It’s now a personnel issue, and those are confidential, including any discipline,” said Richard.
Citizens Police Review Board Executive Director Elizabeth Pittinger said she hadn’t yet seen the OMI report but will eventually.
“They typically don’t give us that stuff, but our board has ordered Henderson’s case to a public hearing. So whatever discipline is handed out, if any, will be made public at that time,” she said. “Some of it may come out at the pre-hearing conference we have scheduled for Dec. 3 at 5:30 p.m. in city council chambers.”
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