4th Pittsburgh FF Faces Drug Charges

<?xml:namespace prefix = dme />



A Pittsburgh Fire Bureau captain was arrested on the North Side and is the latest in a string of city firefighters facing drug and alcohol charges over the past few months.

"I can tell you it's something we're taking very seriously," Public Safety Director Michael Huss told Channel 4 Action News on Wednesday. "These incidents -- we've got to get a handle on it and we've got to restore the public's confidence in that bureau, because these incidents undermine that confidence."


WTAE Channel 4 Action News' Paul Van Osdol reported that police said Capt. Frank Becker Jr. was pulled over in December after driving through an intersection without stopping. Cocaine was found in his car and his blood-alcohol level was twice the state's legal limit for drivers, police said.

Becker was also arrested last year on a DUI charge in Robinson Township after hitting two telephone poles, Van Osdol reported. His blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit. He did not tell city officials about the incident, and they did not learn of it until this week.

"We should have been notified on the previous one back in May when it occurred," Huss said.

Last week, firefighter William White was arrested after allegedly stealing a security vehicle at Rivers Casino and driving drunk as he fled from police.

In June, police arrested firefighter Vincent Manzella after he set off false alarms and then broke into a city fire station to steal money for drugs.

City officials are hoping a new random drug testing policy brings an end to the behavior. Huss is meeting with firefighter union officials this week to hammer out details of a new policy.

"Random testing is important," Huss said. "But even more important than random testing and testing everybody is, when we identify a problem, to deal with it and make sure we don't have these cases again."

Becker has been suspended without pay for 30 days. A trial board will determine what discipline he will receive.

Those trial boards have been a source of controversy after reinstating firefighters with serious criminal offenses. Under the new drug testing policy, the boards will no longer be used when firefighters have drug or alcohol related charges.


Copyright 2010 by ThePittsburghChannel. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.