Pittsburgh police commander served with protection-from-abuse order

By Sadie Gurman

May 9, 2012

The commander of the city’s North Side police station has been served with a protection-from-abuse order filed against her by a business owner who said he was romantically involved with her.

Cmdr. RaShall Brackney remains on the job but must comply with the stipulations of the order, filed Tuesday night.

Police spokeswoman Diane Richard wrote in a statement that the order was issued against Cmdr. Brackney and “all stipulations contained in the PFA are being enforced.”

She said the matter has been referred to the city’s office of municipal investigations for further review, as is standard in cases in which such orders are filed against police officers.

“Commander Brackney remains on-duty at Zone 1 and will carry out her normal duties and responsibilities,” Ms. Richard wrote.

Cmdr. Brackney could not be reached for comment.

Warner Macklin III, who said he is representing the commander “in communications and crisis management issues,” said the allegations contained in the PFA are frivolous, though he had yet to see the complaint for himself.

“There’s a very low standard to file a PFA,” he said.

The order was sought by Andrew Lee, owner of Executive Cigars LLC on the North Side.

A court hearing is scheduled for May 17 at 9 a.m.

A Pittsburgh zoning hearing for the cigar shop is scheduled for tomorrow.

About 30 area residents appeared at a hearing last month to oppose the reopening of the Mr. Lee’s cigar business.

Cmdr. Brackney and other police personnel attended the April 19 hearing along with City Council President Darlene Harris.

“At this time, Cmdr. Brackney is just going to let the official and appropriate actions take place to resolve any wrongdoing or perceived wrongdoing on her part in her official capacity as a commander for the Pittsburgh bureau of police,” Mr. Macklin said.

A request for a protection from abuse order is an unproven allegation filed in civil court. It is unclear whether police have opened a separate investigation.

In the petition, Mr. Lee lists himself as a “current or former sexual or intimate partner” of Cmdr. Brackney. It is unclear whether that is an accurate description of their relationship.

A handwritten notation lists Mr. Lee’s address as “confidential” and Cmdr. Brackney’s address as the “Zone 1 Police Station.” He does not list her date of birth, as is requested, but indicates that she is 52.

In the petition appears Mr. Lee’s account of an incident Tuesday at the Savoy Restaurant in the Strip District:

“The defendant told my lawyer that she was going to kick my ass, and that she would do whatever it takes to get me. He informed me of this today. I came down immediately to file for P.F.A., because this isn’t the first time she’s threatened me. I believe that due to her unique position as a commander she can carry out her threat. I’m afraid for my life.”

Another section of the petition asks for any prior incidents of abuse. According to Mr. Lee:

“On or about Feb. 21, 2012, over the phone, she, in a fit of rage, said that she was going to destroy me by any means. Subsequently she had my zoning permit for my business pulled, she had police issue bogus fines for my business in amount of $9,000, and now she wants to physically harm me as well since she learned of my OMI case against her.”

Mr. Lee marked “yes” to questions about whether there was an “immediate and present danger of further abuse” and whether he had suffered economic losses as a result of the abuse he described.

The cigar shop has been the subject of many neighborhood complaints. Residents said they approached Cmdr. Brackney several times about loud, late-night parties and fights in the street.

In an interview today, Mr. Lee said his business has two levels, including an upstairs lounge that he was leasing to a tenant whom he allowed to have parties from 2 to 4:30 a.m. He said he agreed to “dissolve” his agreement with the tenant after Cmdr. Backney informed him of neighbors’ complaints in February.

But a day later, he said, the city’s zoning board revoked his occupancy permit. He said a judge stayed the order after he appealed, and another zoning board hearing is scheduled for tomorrow.

Neighbors said they planned to testify against Mr. Lee.

Mr. Lee, however, said he fears the commander could hurt or kill him. He said the two met and began a romantic relationship after Cmdr. Brackney attended a party in the lounge in February 2011. But the relationship ended a few months later when he met someone else, he said, adding that he believes the resultant bad blood between them has meant trouble for his business.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette