Pitt police officer sues University for alleged age discrimination

By Jon Moss, News Editor

A Pitt police officer filed a civil complaint against the University for allegedly discriminating against him on the basis of his age.

Alcuin Mitchell, a member of the Pitt police since 1979, filed the complaint on May 6, 2019, later amended on Sept. 25, 2019, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Mitchell alleged that the University’s actions violated the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. He asked the court to award him back and front pay, lost benefits, damages and legal fees.

Pitt spokesperson David Seldin said the University believes the case is “without merit,” and the University’s lawyers seek to have the case dismissed for failure to establish a clear discrimination case.

According to the complaint, Mitchell responded on Feb. 18, 2018, to a call of a suspicious person and determined that the person about whom the call was made was not a suspect. Mitchell didn’t pursue an investigative detention or an arrest. At the time, he served as a sergeant — a position he was promoted to in 2007.

But following the call, Pitt police Chief James Loftus heavily criticized Mitchell for how he handled it, according to the complaint.

“Loftus berated Officer Mitchell for exercising his discretion in the way he responded on scene, while no other officer had been subjected to scrutiny for failing to make an arrest in the way that Loftus scrutinized Officer Mitchell over this incident,” the complaint said.

Mitchell, who had been actively seeking a promotion to the Pitt police’s lieutenant position, heard the following day that he was one of two candidates who qualified for the position. According to the complaint, the other candidate was Bryan Luczak, a man in his “late 30s or early 40s” who had initially trained under Mitchell.

Two days after the incident, Loftus removed Mitchell’s name for the promotion list and suspended him with pay, retroactively from Feb. 12, 2018, to March 8, 2018, citing the Feb. 18 incident. Loftus further disciplined Mitchell by downgrading him after serving his suspension from his management role as a sergeant to a patrol officer, with a corresponding deduction in pay.

Luczak ultimately received the lieutenant position on May 2019, according to the complaint, which Mitchell claimed was part of a series of other decisions that appeared to favor younger members of the force.

The complaint said a younger sergeant, Ben Salvio, seemed to Mitchell to have been treated more favorably due to his age. Salvio, according to the complaint, approved a 2017 “bad arrest” by then-officer Michael Rosfeld near the Garage Door Saloon on Atwood Street. After the incident, Salvio was retrained with pay and restored to his position as a sergeant.

Rosfeld later voluntarily resigned from the force with a clean disciplinary record, according to the complaint. He would later join the East Pittsburgh Police Department and would be at the center of the controversial shooting of Antwon Rose II, an unarmed black 17-year-old.

The complaint alleged that another officer, Lieutenant Andy Redman, enjoyed beneficial treatment due to his younger age, despite numerous complaints against him.

“[Redman] was moved to a newly created office position with no demotion in rank or pay,” the complaint said, “even though he was accused of, and has a history of complaints of, acting in a discriminatory and derogatory manner to fellow officers based on sex, race and religion.”

The complaint added that Redman had allegedly failed to “appropriately and adequately” respond to an active shooter situation the year prior, and was not disciplined or reprimanded, but instead provided with commendations by the Pitt police.

Oral arguments for the case will occur Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. in the Joseph F. Weis. Jr. U.S. Courthouse in Courtroom 6A before Chief Judge Mark Hornak.