Cmdr. George Trosky salutes as slain officers are carried into the Petersen Events Center for services in 2009.
Pittsburgh police Cmdr. George Trosky will be promoted this week to assistant chief, an impressive trajectory for the 34-year veteran whose career -- marked by a demotion and several high-profile controversies -- once seemed that it might be beyond salvation.
Cmdr. Trosky, 57, who has led the city's Zone 2 station in the Hill District for the past five years, will oversee the bureau's investigations branch. Sgt. Eric Holmes, 42, who works out of Chief Nate Harper's office, will succeed him as commander of the zone, which also covers Downtown, the Strip District, Lawrenceville, Polish Hill and other communities.
"He's a hard worker who has earned the respect and cooperation of the community groups he has worked with," Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said Monday of Cmdr. Trosky. "His work speaks for itself. ... He was chosen based on the fact that he is a very good cop, and we need good cops in leadership positions."
Cmdr. Trosky's background as a productive homicide detective with street experience makes him a good pick for the job, according to some of those who have worked with him.
"He was determined to solve cases and dogged in his pursuit of the truth," said Allegheny County Sheriff William Mullen, who was the city's assistant chief of investigations when Cmdr. Trosky was a homicide detective. "He didn't give up; he just kept trying and trying."
He joined the bureau at age 23. Other assignments in the city included posts in narcotics and on the motorcycle unit alongside Chief Harper, who became a close friend. The chief declined to comment on the promotion Monday. Cmdr. Trosky did not return calls.
Sgt. Cristyn Zett, who worked under Cmdr. Trosky in the Zone 2 station, described him as a fair and respectful leader who often directed his officers to step up patrols in areas that generated community complaints. Melanie Brown, president of the Zone 2 Public Safety Council, agreed he was attentive to concerns she and others expressed during meetings.
But the controversy that followed Cmdr. Trosky earlier in his career was again at issue Monday. In 2007, he made the unusually steep leap from detective to commander over concerns from women's organizations about his past; he was one of three police officers promoted that year who had faced accusations of domestic violence.
He made national news in a 1989 incident in which he was videotaped punching a Grateful Dead fan outside a concert, though an internal trial board cleared him of excessive force. In 1990, his name was inexplicably stricken from a list of candidates for promotion to sergeant, and a lawsuit led to his promotion to that post in 1993, retroactive to the date of the error.
But he would only serve as a sergeant until 1997, when he was charged with drunken driving and breaking the nose of his wife, Cheryl, an incident that could have ended his career if he had been convicted. But charges were dropped when she failed to appear in court.
"He has done nothing to show he has gone the extra mile for women," said Jeanne Clark of Squirrel Hill, who, in 2007, was among the women's advocates who fought the commander's promotion and urged the city to pursue new policies against family violence. She said this week's promotion is just as troubling and criticized his role in a 2009 domestic violence incident in Zone 2 in which a woman's abusive former boyfriend was able to hurt her again. "The best thing they can say about [Cmdr. Trosky] is that he hasn't gotten in trouble recently."
But Mr. Ravenstahl said the commander has already paid for the mistakes he knows he made.
"He's qualified, he can do the job, and his body of work is worthy of this promotion," the mayor said.
Officers Chad O'Brien, Brian Schmitt and Detective Anthony Palermo will also be promoted to the rank of sergeant at a Wednesday ceremony.
For his part, Sgt. Holmes said he hopes to build on Cmdr. Trosky's relationships with community leaders in Zone 2, where he was once a patrolman.
First published on August 21, 2012 at 12:00 am