March 31st, 2006 Pittsburgh Police Officer Eugene Hlavac endangered
the safety of all of the bicyclists riding in Critical Mass by aggressively
and offensively driving his squad car through a slow moving group of
cyclists, and then threatened, cursed at, and refused to give his badge
number to anyone else in that group.
WQED (Pittsburgh’s PBS station) recorded all of this. Here’s a youtube link.
After witnessing a police officer endangering instead of protecting,
cursing at, threatening arrest for no reason, and generally abusing his
power, I used what little recourse is available to me by filling a
complaint with the Citizen Police Review Board.
After two years, the CPRB gathered it’s evidence, took statements from
many witnesses, and proceeded to public hearing against Officer Hlavac.
On January 24th 2008, Officer Hlavac came to that hearing. He
wore his iPod headphones throughout, playing them loud enough that
everyone present in the City Council Chambers would be sure to know his
contempt for the proceedings. When called, his FOP lawyer had to go to the
bench where his was sitting and physically tap him on the shoulder to
get his attention. On the record, he refused to answer any question the
board asked him.
Because, he said, his answers would incriminate him.
Please think about that for a moment. When a Pittsburgh Police Officer
was asked to describe his actions, while ostensibly on duty, he refused
to answer because he feared that describing his on-duty actions could
potentially lead to criminal charges against him.
The CPRB, when reviewing video evidence of his actions, and upon hearing
witness after witness describe the officer drive his car into a
slow-moving group of cyclists, sustained the charges against the
Beyond that, beyond even noting that they found the actions to
be a “very serious act of misconduct,” the CPRB went on to recommend
that the Chief or Mayor refer the matter to the district attorney for
possible criminal prosecution.
The Chief response: “I reject your recommendations regarding discipline.”
To me, this sends a clear message. The Mayor (who has the power to accept or reject the recommendations of the CPRB) and Chief Harper are sending a clear message: that they care so little for the safety of cyclists on City streets that they will take no action against one of their own employees who, in a fit of rage, drove his Pittsburgh Police car at a group of cyclists.
That this is the police force that is supposed to protect cyclists from dangerous and aggressive drivers truly frightens me.
At this point, I have tried everything that I can think of to hold this officer accountable: I contacted City Council members, who have shrugged; the Office of Municipal Investigation, who assigned Officer Hlavac “anger management” again, (he’s also one of the promoted officers with a history of domestic violence); and I worked with the CPRB for two years while they conducted an exhaustive investigation.
And this is the result: an independent investigation that finds “very serious acts of misconduct” and recommends that the District Attorney look into filing criminal charges against the officer, yet leads to absolutely no action whatsoever against that officer.
If anyone has any idea as to how to actually hold this officer accountable for his actions and his obvious contempt for those he is sworn to protect, please, let’s hear them.