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Councilman undeterred by decision on South Side

| Thursday, April 18, 2013, 11:59 p.m.

Pittsburgh Councilman Bruce Kraus said on Thursday he won't give up on a plan to have off-duty officers patrol the South Side, despite the public safety director's decision to put it on hold this week.

“I'm fighting,” Kraus said. “I'm not rolling over on this. This is not something we just thought up. This is based on data from across the U.S.”

The Responsible Hospitality Institute planned to announce a pilot program that would pair off-duty officers paid for by bars and restaurants with on-duty officers and supervisors in the South Side entertainment district, institute president Jim Peters said. That changed when Public Safety Director Michael Huss said the police department isn't ready to set up such units.

“I believe we must fix secondary employment and special events before we add another quarter-million dollars in details,” Huss said on Wednesday.

The FBI is investigating police finances involving money that officers earn while working off-duty assignments. A grand jury in March indicted former Chief Nate Harper for diverting some of that money into unauthorized accounts at the police credit union and tapping it for personal use.

“At every step of the way, the public safety director has been invited to this process,” Kraus said. “He has not responded. … It has been a deliberate, chronic indifference from Mike Huss.”

Huss did not return messages seeking comment.

Mike Papariella, president of the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association, said its 20 or so members would cancel police details they typically utilize each weekend, because of Huss' decision.

“This is everybody saying they've had enough,” Papariella said. “One individual decided this wasn't good. Hundreds of people agreed on an idea, and one person is taking it away from us.”

Fraternal Order of Police President Sgt. Michael LaPorte said he planned to meet with Huss and Papariella on Friday.

“We're not to the level where we're ready to implement something. We're still in the research phase,” LaPorte said.

Kraus said he asked District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. how to rectify the problems in the South Side. Zappala previously proposed adding supervisors for off-duty officers.

“Everything is a work in progress,” said Zappala's spokesman, Mike Manko.

Margaret Harding is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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