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Former Pittsburgh detective convicted of road rage praised by commander

| Tuesday, March 19, 2013, 1:54 p.m.

A former police detective convicted of assaulting a motorist in a May 2010 road rage case was a good cop, Assistant Chief George Trosky testified Tuesday in a civil trial seeking to hold the city liable.

Former Detective Bradley Walker “went into the worst neighborhoods and went after the baddest of the bad guys, and he did a good job,” he said.

Although citizens filed dozens of complaints about Walker cursing at them, using excessive force and making illegal arrests, none of those incidents happened in the three to four years that Walker worked at Zone 2 under his command, Trosky said.

Jarret Fate, 32, of Squirrel Hill is suing the city, Trosky and former police Chief Nate Harper — but not Walker.

Walker shattered Fate's driver's side window, cracked his windshield, repeatedly choked Fate and drew a gun on bystanders after a fender bender on the Parkway East.

Fate contends the defendants violated his civil rights by keeping the detective on the force despite violent incidents dating back to the mid-1990s.

“You had an officer who couldn't control himself on or off duty,” said Joshua Autry, Fate's lawyer.

An Allegheny County judge in January 2011 convicted Walker of assault and three other charges and sentenced him to four years of probation. The city fired Walker.

Current and past police officials who testified said that simply counting the number of complaints doesn't provide an accurate picture.

Former Pittsburgh police Chief Robert McNeilly testified in a video deposition that Walker's personnel file is misleading because, under the city's contract with the police union, older disciplinary actions get removed after one to five years.

Harper, 60, of Stanton Heights testified that the long list of complaints against Walker were normal for an “active” officer working drug investigations.

A July 5, 2007, report summarizing Walker's disciplinary history noted that he made 186 arrests and assisted in 666 other arrests, Harper said.

During that period, the Office of Municipal Investigations investigated 45 complaints against Walker and upheld 10 of them, the letter said.

“He was disciplined, counseled or retrained,” Harper said. “He also received several Officer of the Month awards.”

Zone 3 Cmdr. Catherine McNeilly, the wife of the former police chief, testified by video deposition that Harper tended to reduce or dismiss disciplinary recommendations she and other supervisors filed against officers, particularly for minor offenses.

“Chief Harper dealt with discipline in a different way than chiefs in the past,” she said. “He was not the disciplinarian that chiefs in the past were.”

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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