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Officers facing criminal charges are being assigned to monitor security cameras in a unit which happens to sit squarely in the midst of a highly sensitive, federally funded, Homeland Security intelligence-sharing center.

The location seems to have become the department’s holding place of choice for officers on “restricted duty,” having been deemed, at least temporarily, unfit for street duty because of pending criminal charges or a checkered past.

There now, for instance, is James Pitts, a former homicide detective who has been accused of forcibly coercing false confessions from multiple defendants.

Ross says assignment to the camera unit affords a low-risk way to get work from tainted officers still on the payroll. Critics, however, contend the practice is a possible security risk, given the unit’s proximity to scores of local and federal agents handling sensitive investigative information. The department typically has not notified its partners when transferring compromised officers to the facility.

“This is the last place you should put an officer who has been credibility accused of lying or tampering with evidence or abusing people’s rights,” said Mary Catherine Roper, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “I would rather have them do nothing.”

Ross, in an email, defended the practice as an “efficient” use of the officers, who, he said, “work under stringent supervision, and have no access to data or information systems.”


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