When it comes to selecting Pittsburgh’s new chief of police, Mayor Bill Peduto believes: “Haste in this situation would be at the greater loss of true reform.”
Peduto spoke to Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer Wednesday about the process of hiring a new police chief.
Former police chief Nate Harper resigned his position February 2013 while under investigation for creating an unauthorized slush fund, diverting public money and failing to pay income taxes – charges that ultimately led him to a sentence of 18 months in prison.
Assistant Chief Regina McDonald has been serving as interim chief.
However, the application process for a new chief only began a month ago. Peduto said that while Talent City works to find the best candidate in terms of professional qualifications, he is looking to residents to help with the hiring process.
Throughout the summer, the Public Safety councils in Pittsburgh’s six policing zones have been holding forums to hear input from residents about what they want in a chief of police.
“Our goal is to be able to understand what it is that are the major concerns of the broad community of Pittsburgh and then to make that the second component as we look at the professional component of hiring the best police chief,” Peduto said.
While he has yet to hire a new chief, Peduto has filled several other positions: hiring former F.B.I. Special Agent Stephen Bucar as the Public Safety Director and former Washington D.C. federal prosecutor Lourdes Sanchez-Ridge as the solicitor and chief legal officer among others.
Peduto said filling these positions over the last six months has created a strong foundation that the new chief can build on.
“I have to restore a trust between the community and the police,” Peduto said. “And that means I have to have somebody who’s going to be the person in charge of that bureau who is a great communicator and is literally out in the community, not just sending the zone commanders out.”
One way he wants to do this is by hiring a chief who believes in “community-oriented policing.”
“There’s a big difference between an officer riding in a patrol car through a neighborhood and an officer that is walking a beat with another officer in that same neighborhood,” Peduto said. “The first thing that happens is eye contact, and eye contact helps to build communication, the second thing that happens is people feel more comfortable and will talk.”
He said this would help police to receive intel from residents such as places prone to trouble that they could then code and map out for future use.
Peduto said he wants to see a police force that is highly professional, and he is willing to put forward the funding to do so.
Peduto has said that he wants to have a new police chief by fall.