Last week, Pittsburgh police officer Adam Skweres was arrested for allegedly preying on vulnerable women and demanding sexual favors from them in exchange for various forms of legal help. Now one of his victims has come forward to talk to us about her experience — and how the Pittsburgh police department ignored it.
The woman, who has asked to remain anonymous, gave us a complete account of what happened between her and Skweres in the summer of 2008. She said she was driving to work with a friend, when a motorcycle hit the driver's side of her car. Officer Skweres soon arrived at the scene, and the woman told him she had no insurance and was driving with a suspended license. Then he asked her to talk to him privately so he could "get my side of what had happened." Here's what happened next:
I went with him away from my friend and he then he explained to me that I was in alot of trouble and he could make it look like it was my fault or he could give the motor cycle drive a ticket for a failure to obey signs, which would make it his fault. That I could go to jail for this and what he would do to me wasn't as bad as what would happen to me in jail. He then said, "You don't know what a pretty young girl such as yourself could do for a guy like me?" I said, "'No sir,' like I was clueless but I knew what he had meant, my stomach hit the pavement, like if I run I'm resisting arrest, if I say yes that's a reason to arrest me, and if I say no he's going to handcuff me, put me in the back seat and rape me. After about 45 minutes of him saying the same thing and how much trouble i was in I said I was late for work and had to go and my friend in the car with me was on break and was also very late. He told me to think about it, looked down at his gun and said,"If you say anything about this I'll make sure you never walk, talk, or breath again. He then said that paper work could get lost or misplaced if i cooperated and wrote down on a piece of paper off his police notepad his cell phone number, house phone number, work phone number, extension number, and badge number and said if I didn't call him by 11pm that he knew what my answer was. He said he canceled the ambulance saying the guy on the motorcycle refused medical attention to make it look better for me to make sure I call him.
The woman says she immediately told her boss what had happened, and he advised her to report the intimidation to the police. She did so: "the next day I spoke to OMI [Office of Municipal Investigations, which handles complaints against officers] detective Paul Becker and a female officer. I was then asked to take a polygraph test that they said was inconclusive. I never heard anything besides my court papers in the mail." She's angry with the police and OMI — she says if only they'd investigated her claims back in 2008, the other abuses Skweres is accused of "could have been prevented."
Neither the police department nor OMI has responded to my requests for comment, so I don't have their explanation for why they failed to do anything about a serious complaint for several years. But the department has had a lot of legal troubles recently. In 2010, the city paid out almost $300,000 in legal damages to people who had been mistreated by police in various ways, including a woman who was physically "picked up, then dumped on the curb" by an off-duty officer. Another man sued the department in 2011, alleging that an officer had cut him off on the street, then pulled him over and beaten him up. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that civil rights concerns caused the US Justice Dept to monitor the Pittsburgh police department from 1997 to 2002 — but a lawyer told the paper that "the vigilance of police brass and the public has waned since then, creating conditions for more misconduct cases." The police certainly don't seem to have been vigilant in the Skweres case. Says his alleged victim, "it's a shame to know that you can't even trust or depend on the police, and how do I know that I'm going to be safe? That's the question that I can not get an answer to."