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City officer not offered former post on graffiti task force claims discrimination

| Monday, May 5, 2014, 11:00 p.m.

A Pittsburgh police officer said on Monday he was passed over for his former position because of his race.

Officer Alphonso Sloan, a former detective with the graffiti task force, said he wasn't invited to return to the squad when it was reinstated last month. The other former members, Detective Daniel Sullivan and Officer Frank Rende, were offered their former posts.

“There were a lot more reasons to put me back than to keep me out,” Sloan said. “There's really nothing separating us other than race.”

Sloan is black, and Sullivan and Rende are white, as is another officer, Dawn Bowen, who is temporarily assigned to the squad. Rende turned down a position with the unit. Sloan was hired in 1995. Rende started in 1993, and the city has employed Sullivan since 2000.

Acting police Chief Regina McDonald did not return a message seeking comment. Public Safety spokeswoman Sonya Toler said in an email: “This is an internal personnel matter that we will not discuss.”

Sloan said he filed complaints with the Office of Municipal Investigations and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. OMI Manager Deborah Walker declined to comment, and the Pittsburgh EEOC office did not return a message.

McDonald disbanded the graffiti task force in April 2013, citing higher-priority needs elsewhere in the bureau.

Mayor Bill Peduto, who opposed that move while a city councilman, announced on April 4 that he was reinstating the squad.

Sloan said he was off work, recovering from an injury, but welcomed the news and expected to rejoin the squad when he returned on April 14. Instead, he went back to patrol duties based out of the Zone 5 station in Highland Park.

“I felt I found my niche in the city of Pittsburgh,” Sloan said of his six years on the graffiti squad. “They're really wasting a resource.”

Sloan said he filed a grievance with the police union and sent a request to McDonald, known as a special, that he be reinstated to the squad. He said her response was that she would consider it.

“She didn't explain why,” Sloan said. “Everything would've qualified me for it.”

Sloan, who has a degree in art, said he helped develop the graffiti tracking system with the two other detectives to clear more cases.

The squad began in 2006 and made high-profile arrests, including members of Pittsburgh's Most Wanted Graffiti Vandals Ian de Beer and Daniel J. Montano.

Margaret Harding is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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