PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - A Pittsburgh police lieutenant is under internal investigation, accused of being connected to an anti-government group.
A Public Safety Department spokesperson confirms Lt. Philip Mercurio has been given an administrative assignment while the city investigates whether he signed up as a member of the Oath Keepers, a far-right, anti-government group.
The Oath Keepers have been around for more than a decade but rose to national consciousness on Jan. 6 in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. To date, some 20 of its members have been indicted — four already convicted — as playing a central role in breaching the building in military gear.
Just last month, a group called Distributed Denial of Secrets breached the group's database and revealed politicians and members of law enforcement as having signed up as members, and according to published reports, Pittsburgh Lt. Philip Mercurio is one of them.
USA Today reports Mercurio used a city of Pittsburgh email to join the group. And, in the wake of that report, the city confirms Mercurio has been given an administrative assignment pending an investigation by the city's Office of Municipal Investigations. The Pittsburgh Police Citizens Review Board is also investigating.
The FBI describes the Oath Keepers as a paramilitary organization of loosely organized militias who believe in a government conspiracy to subvert individual rights.
Citizen Police Review Board Director Beth Pittinger says involvement with a group like that undermines public trust of police.
"We opened an inquiry to it because the Oath Keepers is an extremist group. Its primary message is anti-government in nature and that would certainly be contrary to any police officer's oath of office," she said.
Reports show that Mercurio may have used a city email to join the group, but police spokesperson Cara Cruz said the city discontinued email addresses like the one in question 10 years ago, meaning Mercurio allegedly joined the group before that. Cruz said the internal investigation would try to determine the extent of Mercurio's involvement with the group.
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