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Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto keeps, trims security detail

| Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 11:47 p.m.
Bill Peduto greets former mayor Luke Ravenstahl before taking the oath of office as Pittsburgh's 60th mayor at Heinz Hall, Monday.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Bill Peduto greets former mayor Luke Ravenstahl before taking the oath of office as Pittsburgh's 60th mayor at Heinz Hall, Monday.

Councilman and mayoral candidate Bill Peduto said last year that Pittsburgh police officers are for the protection of the city's people and criticized former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl for having as many as three officers working overtime while the mayor went out late “socializing.”

New Mayor Peduto has used his assistant to drive him to work Downtown from his Point Breeze home since his Jan. 6 inauguration. Ravenstahl typically used a city police officer as his driver.

Since the inauguration, Peduto has grudgingly accepted a police security detail during normal work hours while a city policy is crafted over the next two months for protection of the mayor.

“I've been advised by (former Mayor) Tom Murphy and the police chief (Regina McDonald) that there is a need for on-duty officers to be with me,” Peduto said.

“Given that he's the mayor of a major city, it's important to have the security detail,” McDonald said.

Peduto said he wanted to use retired officers rather than working police. He said he didn't take a position that the mayor shouldn't have bodyguards, but the use of on-duty officers should be minimized as much as possible.

“To be honest, I feel uncomfortable having a detail,” Peduto said. “It's a necessary function that you want to minimize. In the past, it's been maximized.”

McDonald recommended that Peduto pick detectives from the police bureau's intelligence unit, which handles dignitary protection. On an interim basis, he chose Detectives Ashley Thompson and Amy Mattia.

Peduto said he worked with Thompson when he was the community relations officer in Squirrel Hill and that Mattia's résumé set her apart.

Thompson has military experience and taught at a workplace violence training seminar at Robert Morris University last year. Mattia has experience with dignitary protection, including presidential visits to Pittsburgh and the Group of 20 economic summit in 2009.

Mattia declined comment. Thompson could not be reached. Peduto said both have “impeccable records” and praised their integrity.

Peduto said his first assignment for his new detail was to come up with a policy for the mayor of what is appropriate and what isn't for security details that Peduto hopes future administrations will use. He said there isn't a formal policy and that's what got the city into trouble under Ravenstahl. Whatever the police recommendations are, he will follow them, the mayor said.

“It's important we spell out the duties and responsibilities of the mayor's security detail,” McDonald said. “A part of that goes to ensuring those selected are properly trained and prepared to handle the responsibilities. It's unfair to bring someone in off the street and put them in that position without the proper training.”

The detectives trained in dignitary protection learn what to look for to spot suspicious people, said Lt. Ed Trapp, who oversees the intelligence unit.

“They learn the difference between someone who's there to express a point and someone more dangerous,” he said.

The late Mayor Bob O'Connor typically did not take a bodyguard when he went out for an evening with his family. Murphy sometimes had police officers as security when he was mayor, though not always on out-of-town trips. Former Mayor Sophie Masloff said the officers she inherited from the late Mayor Richard Caliguiri worked shifts to guard her and to help her get around the city.

Ravenstahl's bodyguards — Sgts. Dominick Sciulli and Matt Gauntner, and retired Detective Fred Crawford Jr. — logged more than 9,400 hours of overtime between 2006 and April 2013, according to records the Tribune-Review obtained. The records show the bodyguards regularly worked late-night hours when Ravenstahl became mayor.

Crawford's attorney, Robert Stewart, said his client testified in June before a federal grand jury investigating city matters that the mayor kept his bodyguards with him during late-night “carousing.”

Peduto said he expects to eliminate overtime stemming from the detail.

“I've been social in the past eight days, but I haven't had them with me,” Peduto said. “My goal is to have no overtime and to be able to use a number of different officers so it doesn't become a private detail.”

Gauntner now works in the Zone 5 station in Highland Park. McDonald this month transferred Sciulli, Ravenstahl's primary bodyguard, to fill a vacancy in the warrant office. Supervisors in that office review arrest warrants.

“There's not an underlying motive, other than we need a supervisor down there and he's willing,” the chief said.

Staff writer Bob Bauder contributed to this report. Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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