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Acting police chief vows to fix off-duty policies

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By Jeremy Boren and Carl Prine
Saturday, March 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Acting Pittsburgh police Chief Regina McDonald vowed on Friday to clean up the off-duty employment system that has triggered both a federal grand jury investigation into cop corruption and the forced resignation of Nate Harper, her former boss.

Echoing what Public Safety Director Mike Huss told the Tribune-Review on Thursday, McDonald said she plans next week to convene a panel composed of command staffers, police academy director Lt. Jennifer Ford and leaders from the Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents most of the 850-officer force.

Critics, especially within the Fraternal Order of Police union, allege some schedulers and the Special Events section sometimes play favorites, distributing jobs to friends and family. They also claim that a “Detail Mafia” inside the department gave select cops a jump on the best off-duty jobs and that the city used the administrative surcharges as a “for-profit” means of subsidizing operations.

“They can request all the help they want from us, but it's the command staff who was responsible for the money that was diverted from these offices. It's the command staff who determined where officers would work and which jobs were approved,” said Officer Bob Swartzwelder, an FOP Labor Management committeeman.

The union wants the city to gut the power of the “schedulers,” yank Special Events from the bureau, give the City Controller's Office greater oversight of secondary employment and find a way to fairly award off-duty jobs to more officers.

The FOP also wants City Controller Michael Lamb on McDonald's reform committee. A Democratic candidate running to replace departing Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Lamb told the Trib that he'd be glad to join them.

The FOP is “absolutely right that the whole secondary detail process has to be removed from the bureau,” Lamb said. “The question becomes: Where does it go? It has to be somewhere that's completely independent from the bureau.”

Jeremy Boren and Carl Prine are staff writers for Trib Total Media.

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