PITTSBURGH — The city’s acting police chief is defending an officer who arrested Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter outside a bar after the independent Citizen Police Review Board confirmed it’s investigating the incident.
“I have concluded the officer’s account of the incident is accurate and our officer conducted himself in the professional manner that is to be expected,” Chief Scott Schubert said, referring to arresting officer Paul Abel. Schubert said he reviewed unspecified videos of the incident on Sunday, including some recorded by Abel’s body camera, in reaching that conclusion.
Porter’s arrest has generated intense social media interest, and review board executive director Elizabeth Pittinger said it was that “high visibility” and “negative chatter” on social media surrounding the incident that prompted the review.
“If we understand what happened, and there was no misconduct, we have a responsibility to assure the public of that,” Pittinger told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Porter is charged with aggravated assault for allegedly grabbing Abel’s wrists when the officer intervened after Porter argued with and allegedly lifted up a bouncer who refused him admission to a bar hours after the Steelers beat the Miami Dolphins in Sunday’s playoff game.
Porter is also charged with simple assault, for his alleged contact with the bouncer, along with resisting arrest, defiant trespass, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness. The team has placed him on indefinite leave but otherwise has not commented.
Porter’s defense attorney, Robert Del Greco, told the AP on Wednesday, that he has not met with Porter and can’t comment on the charges. But he stressed that “whatever investigation has been launched by the review board has been done on their own accord and not as a result of any complaint filed by Joey Porter personally or me on his behalf.”
The “chatter” Pittinger hopes to address stems from Porter’s reputation as a “hot head,” she said, and his high profile as a Steelers coach and former star player.
Abel has a controversial past and was nearly fired for a 2008 incident in which he pistol-whipped and shot a man while off-duty. Abel said the man walked up to his car at a red light and punched him.
Abel was criminally charged with drunken driving, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment but was acquitted. The city paid $44,500 to settle a lawsuit filed by the man shot by Abel, whose firing was overturned by a labor arbitrator.
The citizens review board can make disciplinary recommendations against officers, but they’re nonbinding. Though its investigations are generally driven by formal complaints of police misconduct, the board has reviewed other high-profile arrests or police incidents, Pittinger said.