PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Citizen Police Review Board is investigating “extra” pay to a Pittsburgh officer who’s on disciplinary leave and could be fired for allegedly roughing up a drunken man he arrested.
Executive director Elizabeth Pittinger contends it’s “ludicrous” that Sgt. Stephen Matakovich, 47, is receiving not just his $69,000 salary but also pay for court appearances and extra details that he can’t perform while on leave.
Matakovich was working one such detail when he allegedly pushed and struck a man he arrested at a high school championship football game at Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, in November. The 22-year veteran officer was criminally charged with simple assault and official oppression - charges which Chief Cameron McLay has said were justified - before a district judge dismissed them at a preliminary hearing earlier this month.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. has said his office will re-file the charges, and McLay has since recommended Matakovich be fired. Matakovich has appealed that decision to Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich, who has yet to rule.
Matakovich earned nearly $190,000 because of his overtime pay for court appearances and extra details, Pittinger said.
“We as taxpayers should not be expected to support a $190,000 lifestyle when the person is not eligible to be a police officer and has been fired by the chief of police,” she said.
But Bryan Campbell, the attorney for the police union, said Matakovich is entitled to the extra pay under the city’s police contract because his internal investigation has taken more than 30 days to complete. Under the contract, an officer suspended with pay receives only his salary for the first 30 days. But after that, officers are entitled to the average court appearance and secondary detail pay they’d normally earn.
“If they can’t reach a decision in 30 days, they’re going to pay you just like you were working,” Campbell said.
Matakovich and his defense attorney have denied wrongdoing, saying he used physical force to arrest 20-year-old Gabriel Despres because he believed the young man was threatening. But security video doesn’t show Despres taking an aggressive posture, and the city’s own use-of-force expert testified at the preliminary hearing that Matakovich was “unreasonable.”
Zappala said the video and the expert’s testimony are enough to send the charges to trial, which is why he expects to refile the charges in the next few days.
The FBI is also reviewing the arrest but has yet to comment on or reveal its progress.
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