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Acting Pittsburgh police chief urged to reassign officers from disbanded unit to patrols

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By Margaret Harding
Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Acting police Chief Regina McDonald might transfer detectives from a disbanded unit again since Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday questioned her decision to keep the officers in headquarters.

During a post-agenda hearing on police staffing in council chambers, Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith asked McDonald why she didn't move the seven detectives in the Community Technical Investigative and Preparedness Section, or C-TIPS, into the department's zones to beef up patrol numbers. McDonald said some of the detectives are involved in task forces, so she placed them in the narcotics and vice unit, a part of the investigation branch that works out of police headquarters on the North Side.

“In hindsight, we realized we should've moved two of the officers to the zones,” McDonald said.

Rank-and-file officers, the Fraternal Order of Police union and council members have questioned the work of C-TIPS, a group hand-picked by former police Chief Nate Harper. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl forced Harper's resignation last month because of a federal investigation into police spending, including off-duty details. McDonald transferred officers who previously reported directly to Harper to other areas.

McDonald said she would look at moving more officers into the zones but would not give council specifics on when or how the changes could be made. She would not comment afterward. McDonald said she met with the top members of her command before the council hearing to discuss the issue.

“We've begun the process,” she said. “We know there's a need to address that.”

Councilman Patrick Dowd said he was disturbed that the issue has not been resolved. He said he's particularly troubled by the fact that the Zone 5 station in Highland Park has an opening among its eight sergeant positions.

“What we ought to be doing is rebalancing the force we have today,” Dowd said.

Also Tuesday, Deputy police Chief Paul Donaldson confirmed that the department is conducting an internal investigation into police Cmdr. Eric Holmes' job as interim director of public safety at Slippery Rock University in 2007-08.

The bureau is conducting a review of the hours Holmes, then a sergeant, worked at the two jobs to make sure they did not conflict or coincide, Donaldson said. The review also is to determine that the outside job was in compliance with departmental policies and procedures.

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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