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Bucar grilled by City Council, likely to win approval as public safety chief

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 10:45 p.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Stephen A. Bucar is the public safety director for the City of Pittsburgh.

Members of Pittsburgh City Council said they likely will confirm Stephen Bucar next week as Pittsburgh's new public safety director, but that didn't stop them from peppering him with questions for about three hours on Wednesday.

“He's obviously had an honorable and distinguished career in law enforcement, and I think that will serve us well in overseeing all of our public safety divisions,” said Councilman Ricky Burgess of North Point Breeze. “I haven't heard anything negative.”

Burgess repeated a contention that animosity between Pittsburgh police and black city residents is at a crisis level. He said reforms must include improved police-community relations.

“I don't disagree with anything you're saying,” Bucar replied, noting that one of his first moves was to assign an officer to handle public outreach. “I know I have to break those barriers down.”

Other council members urged Bucar, 54, to work to obtain better equipment for public safety personnel, reduce neighborhood violence and squelch police misconduct.

“He clearly has a firm grasp of the enormity of the position he is taking,” Council President Bruce Kraus of the South Side said. “Skill set has to balance with personality, and he brings that complete package.”

The native of West Brownsville in Washington County said a primary reason he retired from the FBI and accepted the position with Pittsburgh was because it presented an opportunity to return to Western Pennsylvania.

“I'm here because I want to be here, and I am committed to making it better than I found it,” he said.

Bucar, who once was a West Brownsville police officer and Pennsylvania state trooper, declined to comment after council's interview session.

Bucar's salary is $125,000 a year. If he is confirmed, he will replace Public Safety Director Michael Huss, who remains a city employee.

Tim McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto, said Huss continues to assist with public safety and has accepted a pay reduction to $105,000. Peduto has said he wants to keep Huss in some role with the city.

Huss declined to comment on his job status.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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