Letter alleges cover-up of racial police incident; NAACP calls for probe of Zone 5

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An anonymous letter sent to Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has spurred an internal investigation into an alleged racial incident that occurred between two Zone 5 police officers sometime in the last few weeks.

According to the letter, a White officer placed a cutout of a “Black face” on a stick and left it in a patrol car assigned to Black officer Clarence Ford. Ford, the letter said, reported it to Zone 5 Commander Tim O’Connor and a subsequent lab test recovered a fingerprint belonging to officer Jonathan Craig.

“At this point things have been swept under the rug,” the letter continues. “I ask you to look into this and hold those accountable that swept it under the rug and turn it over to the proper authority to investigate it fully.”

Peduto’s spokesman Tim McNulty would only say that has been done.

“An anonymous complaint was made, and it went to the appropriate investigative agency,” he said.

That agency is the Office of Municipal Investigation, now managed by former Civilian Police Review Board Chair and veteran University of Pittsburgh police Officer Deborah Walker. However, because OMI is now investigating, no one can comment until the review is complete. Sonya Toler, spokesperson for the city’s Department of Public Safety, said the incident had been resolved–not swept under the rug.

“After an internal review, both officers were spoken to and the offended officer understands it was not a racial incident,” she said. “The other officer has received counseling. Now OMI is investigating because someone wrote an anonymous letter.”

Toler also said the letter claims that the “face” was that of Jordan Miles, the teen that was beaten during an illegal arrest in January 2010, is incorrect.

NAACP President Connie Parker, who also received a copy of the letter as did the Urban League and two television stations, isn’t so sure and wants more action taken including an investigation of the entire Zone 5.

“Where is all this stuff coming from; Jordan Miles, Leon Ford, and Dennis Henderson—all of those incidents were in Zone 5,” she said. “I think some lies were told because they already looked at this. We have requested a meeting with the mayor because he said he’d be transparent—let’s see. This city has to be on top of this.”

Last month, a federal jury awarded damages after finding three officers falsely arrested Miles.

However, it acquitted them of using excessive force. A Pittsburgh teacher, Henderson is currently suing another Zone 5 officer for his “racially motivated false arrest” in June 2013. Ford was shot and partially paralyzed by a Zone 5 officer looking for an entirely different person in November 2012.

Parker said she does not think all the zone five officers are bad.

“But the ones that are need to be taken down,” she said.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

 

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