Pittsburgh public safety chief will have free hand to attack cronyism, Peduto says
Pittsburgh's new public safety director will have free rein to change a police bureau culture that Mayor Bill Peduto described as “mediocrity at best and corruption at worst.”
Nominee Stephen A. Bucar, an FBI special agent, will team with solicitor Lourdes Sanchez Ridge and Deborah Walker, director of the Office of Municipal Investigations, to root out corruption, favoritism and political cronyism, and make whatever other changes they determine are necessary, Peduto said on Thursday.
He said Bucar, whose appointment is subject to City Council approval, would play a major role in choosing a new police chief.
“I need a public safety director who can instill value and integrity within a police bureau and put a clarion call out to every other department in this city that the ways of the past are gone forever,” Peduto said.
Though he singled out the police bureau, Peduto said similar problems exist within the public safety agencies across the city. Criticisms that have confronted the bureaus include favoritism in the police moonlighting system, accusations that interactions have been tense between police and residents of poor neighborhoods and incidents in which firefighters have been arrested on DUI and assault charges.
Police and fire union leaders disputed the mayor's characterization.
“The men and women in this department follow the Pittsburgh police creed: integrity, accountability and respect,” Pittsburgh police Detective Jim Glick, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1, told the Tribune-Review.
“This is (Peduto's) department now. His department is not corrupt. What he's doing by saying that is damaging the already beaten morale,” Glick said.
He pointed out that the only person charged with corruption in the police department was former Chief Nate Harper, who was appointed by Luke Ravenstahl, the previous mayor, and approved by city council. Harper is serving a prison sentence for failing to file income taxes and diverting about $30,000 in police funds. Ravenstahl pushed Harper to resign in February 2013. Acting Chief Regina McDonald has been in place since then.
“Pittsburgh police are the most professional, honest, hard-working people I've ever worked with,” Glick said. “I think it's time the mayor realized that, because we're working for him.”
Ralph Sicuro, vice president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 1, said Peduto's transition team found no problems during a review of the union's disciplinary procedures.
“This is news to us that there is a problem,” he said of the mayor's comments. “His team found that we were handling discipline the way we should be.”
Bucar, 54, a native of Washington County, resides in Nazareth in Northampton County. He has spent a good part of his FBI career supervising teams of agents in the fight against terrorism, according to his resume. His experience includes investigations into attacks at the World Trade Center in 1993 and 2001.
He had worked as a Pennsylvania State Police trooper and on the West Brownsville police department.
Peduto said he expects Bucar to use his extensive experience to develop a checklist of education, training, background and other requirements that will help identify the next police chief.
The mayor said he promised Bucar that he would “have his back” in changing the culture within public safety, which, he said, includes officers who moonlight to earn up to double their salaries on jobs handed out based on favoritism, and discipline and promotions based on cronyism.
“You have within that almost a protected class of political appointees who have been given promotions that are promulgating a system of cronyism and favoritism that holds the good officers down,” Peduto said.
Officers, the mayor said, have told him that “the most crippling part of their job is the old school parochialism that exists within the ranks of the police bureau.”
Glick said the bureau has been in turmoil during the delay in appointing new leadership, but police officers “haven't missed a step.”
Staff writer Margaret Harding contributed to this report. Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Man accused of killing Brookline woman denied bail
- U.S. Appeals Court reduces damages in Carnegie Mellon patent infringement case
- PennEnvironment threatens to sue steel giant under Clean Air Act
- Allegheny County will spray for mosquitoes Wednesday night in Munhall and Homestead
- Leetsdale council accepts resignation of police chief
- 2 quit race for Plum school board
- Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s banding program a labor of love for avian expert
- Pittsburgh airport improvements noted as CEO tries to expand activity
- Strip District, Shadyside startups headed to White House
- New interim director to take over VA regional office in Pittsburgh
- Philadelphia firm to defend Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority in lawsuit