PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pittsburgh’s undercover officers face strict new guidelines when it comes investigations at bars.
While it may be necessary for the officer to have drink while undercover, consumption will limited. It’s the result of a drunken brawl that broke two years ago inside a bar.
It happened at Kopy’s on the South Side. Undercover cops, heavily under the influence, severely assaulted members of the Pagans motorcycle gang. It was all caught on videotape.
It’s a disturbing video: one undercover cop holds a Pagan’s head to the bar while the other cop repeatedly punches him. The cops had been drinking for hours.
Attorney Wendy Williams represents one of the Pagans.
“If you watch the video, it’s, I think, a bottle and a half of Jack. It actually makes my stomach hurt to watch it,” Williams says.
So the citizens review board summoned police brass to outline changes in undercover bar scenarios. In a Zoom meeting, Assistant Chief Lavonnie Bickerstaff outlined some big new restrictions.
“The officer who is working in that bar is not allowed to have more than two alcoholic beverages in a four hour period,” said Bickerstaff.
A written proposal must be submitted before conducting the undercover operation. The head of the civilian review board says a policy like that, could have prevented the brawl at Kopy’s Bar.
“There had to be some policy deficiencies or gaps for the officers to conduct themselves the way they did, to feel that that was acceptable and that it would be permitted,” said Elizabeth Pittinger, the executive director of the citizens review board.
“Obviously they should have had a policy prior to our incident at Kopy’s bar. I think for the sake of the public, they should have been limiting the police officers drinking on duty forever.”
All charges were dropped against the Pagan gang members and those undercover officers were reassigned. And a federal lawsuit against the city is pending in court.