A Pittsburgh police officer, who was on paid leave after punching on a teenager, is now getting paid for work he never did.
Police Sgt. Stephen Matakovich, who has worked for the Pittsburg police department for more than 20 years, was accused of using excessive force during the arrest of a drunken teenager, Gabriel Despres, at WPIAL football championship games at Heinz Field earlier this year.
Breaking: Target 11 confirms FBI now reviewing actions of Pgh police officer caught on camera punching suspect#WPXI pic.twitter.com/ExLPctJzab— Rick Earle (@WPXITarget11) February 2, 2016
He was charged with one count of simple assault and one count of official oppression and was later suspended pending termination.
Since the city failed to make a decision on Matakovich’s status with the force in 30 days, in addition to his regular wages, he will be paid for court time as well as secondary detail time, even though he is not allowed to work.
In January 2014, the police union agreed to give the city a 30-day period to conduct internal investigations. If they fail to reach a decision by the end of the term, the officer becomes entitled to average court time and secondary detail time they worked during the past six months.
The Pittsburg Citizen Police Review Board and the public understandably argue against this contentious policy. In the police union’s defense, their attorney has explained: “Let's say an investigation took 90 days. You could have a substantial economic loss for nothing. If they can't reach a decision in 30 days, they're going to pay you just like you were working."
Beth Pittinger, executive director of the review board, however, doesn't buy this explanation.
“This issue about court time and detail time is ludicrous. Who else gets that? If you don't work it, why would you expect to be paid for it?” she said.
And that’s the question, isn’t it? If an officer is suspended and unable to do his job, where are his detail and court time wages coming from? Is he taking the taxpayers’ money for not doing his job? And shouldn’t the police department reconsider the absurd policy to fund an officer who is suspended for misconduct?
City Controller Michael Lamb has said he was unaware of the policy and it is under investigation.
The Citizen Police Review Board also wants to understand the process of pay enhancement for suspended employees and whether the process only applies to police officers or to all employees.
Sgt. Matakovich's annual salary is $69,287.92. With the added wages, his wage is easily doubled.