Ex-Reno police sergeant accused of targeting young female drivers
RENO (AP) – A Reno police sergeant was fired earlier this year after an internal investigation found he had targeted young female drivers in information searches and used the department’s computer system to gather data on their vehicles, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Paul Pitsnogle’s dismissal in April came five months after he was acquitted of charges that he coerced a teenage girl into undressing to get out of a traffic ticket.
The Reno Police Department report on Pitsnogle’s termination recently was publicly released after he filed a civil petition asking a judge to review the denial of his unemployment benefits.
The report provides details on queries he made on a Mobile Data Terminal, a computer search device mounted in his patrol car, a Reno newspaper reported.
The internal affairs investigation found that most of the license plates he ran checks on were for vehicles driven by females younger than 30, the report said.
Pitsnogle ran checks on some of the vehicles two or three times, and the vehicles at times were parked in the person’s driveway, according to the audit.
“The audit of Sergeant Pitsnogle’s MDT activity indicates he has disproportionately targeted females less than 30 years of age,” the report concluded.
Also released were the recommendations of the department’s Disciplinary Review Board, which cited violations of police rules concerning sexual harassment and ethics. Police Chief Michael Poehlman upheld the board’s recommendation to fire Pitsnogle.
Pisnogle declined to comment.
His lawyer, Robert Hager, said the firing was inappropriate and is being appealed. He said the claims about targeting young females are untrue.
None of the people contacted by police as a result of the audit filed complaints against Pitsnogle, Hager said. And most of the license plate checks were done on unoccupied vehicles, making it impossible to know whether the car was driven by a woman, he added.
“It’s an attempt to concoct an allegation,” Hager said
. “It’s consistent with an agenda that has driven this travesty since day one.”
Poehlman said he could not comment because it’s a personnel matter. But he said the public can be assured that the department does not tolerate abuse by any officers.
“As a profession, we take very seriously the behavior of the people in our profession,” Poehlman said.
The parents of the girl behind the criminal charges also declined to comment.
The charges stemmed from an April 2006 traffic stop of a 17-year-old girl and a friend in which Pitsnogle began a drunken driving investigation. The young woman testified that she asked if it was possible to avoid arrest, and their encounter ended with her undressing in the back seat of the car.
Pitsnogle testified that she failed several tests for drunken driving, then undressed.
The internal investigation found that he made 1,546 transactions on the police computer system between April 2005 and April 2006 – an average of 17.8 searches per day, the newspaper reported.
However, dispatch records showed that he was called out on a traffic stop 14 times during that period, issued one traffic citation and wrote three reports.