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False arrest lawsuit against Pittsburgh police settled for $115,000

| Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 10:48 p.m.

Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday approved a $115,000 settlement with a woman who accused a city officer of false arrest in a lawsuit.

Christine Condarcure, 50, of North Apollo sued Officer Anthony Scarpine, alleging that he was wrong to arrest her on charges of witness intimidation and simple assault outside of her son's preliminary hearing in May 2010. She spent five days in the Allegheny County Jail accused of hitting a witness, but video surveillance showed that she only brushed against the witness, according to the lawsuit.

“It's not just about the money, it's about the fact that citizens' constitutional rights are being violated by persons whom we have entrusted to enforce the law,” said attorney Tim O'Brien, who represented Condarcure.

The city could pay more than $500,000 this year to resolve lawsuits involving officers. Two jury awards this year against city officers totaled $224,016. A lawyer for a woman who accused an officer of sexually assaulting her in December 2011 said she has agreed to a $35,000 settlement with the city. The city has approved an $11,000 payment to a man who said he was injured when a police car hit him in 2007, and is considering a $145,000 settlement with a woman who was injured in a 2012 crash with an officer.

O'Brien said the types of complaints against police officers his office has received lately remind him of those that were made before a federal lawsuit against the bureau led to a consent decree in 1997 that put the police department under federal oversight for five years.

He said since the consent decree expired, he has seen a yearly rise in the complaints of police abuse.

Bryan Campbell, an attorney for the Pittsburgh police union, said he doesn't think the department is in the same place it was before the consent decree.

“The training today is a lot more extensive than it was, and the city keeps very, very close supervision over what the officers do,” Campbell said. “I think nobody today could bring a suit to show the city has patterns, practices or policies that would lead officers to think they could violate civil rights.”

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

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