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Fired Plum police officer vows to fight to get job back

| Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Plum Advance Leader
Plum police officer Jeremy J. Cumberledge

Fired Plum police officer Jeremy Cumberledge has vowed to fight to get his job back after the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office's decision to not refile a felony charge of hacking into the borough's computer records.

Cumberledge, 31, said he welcomed the “great news” when contacted about the DA's decision last week.

Plum District Judge Linda Zucco on June 11 dismissed a charge of unlawful use of a computer filed against Cumberledge, who had been a borough officer for seven years before council members voted on March 11 to fire him.

“We felt it was made clear during the preliminary hearing that even though we had all the elements of a favorable prosecution, the court felt that since Cumberledge did not personally gain from his actions, either financially or otherwise, the charges were not warranted,” district attorney's office spokesman Mike Manko said.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 91 attorney Ronald Koerner who represents Cumberledge in his bid to get his job back said Monday that he will work to get a date for a hearing before an arbitrator.

“We are very happy they (the district attorney's office) made that decision,” Koerner said.

“We will get a hearing date and get this thing litigated before an arbitrator.”

Koerner said arbitration decisions typically are handed down 30 to 45 days after a hearing.

Michael DeRiso, Cumberledge's defense attorney, called the criminal case against Cumberledge “ridiculous” and praised the DA for “doing the right thing” by nixing the prosecution that began April 10, nearly a month after borough council fired the officer.

Cumberledge was not successful in obtaining unemployment benefits.

A June 20 order from the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Board of Review revealed that Cumberledge was caught on camera accessing the Plum chief of police's computer files.

Cumberledge eavesdropped on the “network profiles” of other officers and the “medical documents and financial information” of other employees — including “user names and passwords to banking files” — before erasing his browsing history from the police station terminals, according to the board's decision.

DeRiso said the unemployment ruling was “as absurd as the initial charges,” with the administrative judge refusing to let him call witnesses refuting the borough's probe.

DeRiso said Cumberledge is appealing the unemployment benefit decision and predicted that the former officer would win that, too.

Police Chief Jeffrey Armstrong and Plum manager Michael Thomas declined comment.

Plum Councilman Leonard Szarmach said he doesn't want Cumberledge back in uniform.

“I am absolutely concerned about (the possibility) of him (Cumberledge) returning to work,” Szarmach has said. “It would not be healthy.”

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-871-2367 or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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