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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Public weighs in on police chief selection

Posted By on Tue, Jul 1, 2014 at 3:12 PM

Should Pittsburgh's next police chief come from within or outside the city's police bureau? Should he or she be an academic or have street experience? These were some of the questions posed at a public forum in the West End June 30.

"I have a sense of the skills they need to bring the police department in Pittsburgh to a higher level," said Stephen Bucar, the city's nominee for director of public safety. "But I want to make sure the community feels involved and empowered."

The next chief will be selected through the Talent City hiring process and screened by a panel of community members chosen for their experience with criminal justice, community outreach, and social services. Four of the panelists were at last night's meeting to hear from the public.

The majority of the group of approximately 30 individuals agreed candidates should be a current or former police officer, but disagreed on whether officers within the bureau should be considered. Other priorities included experience with youth violence, drug crimes, and gang violence; a commitment to increasing diversity on the police force; and a desire to maintain the bureau's residency requirement.

In addition to expressing their opinions on the qualities the next police chief should have, the group was also asked to express how they would work with the police bureau.

"We don't have the luxury of having an army of police officers who can be everywhere at anytime," Bucar said. "We need to leverage relationships with the community."

Members of the selection panel seemed to agree with the public on the qualities the next chief should have. Primarily, they said the next chief would have to work to repair the relationship between the police bureau and the community, which has deteriorated as a result of alleged accounts of police brutality and former chief Nathan Harper going to prison.

"I would look for someone who understands there needs to be some conciliation with the community," said Erin Dalton, deputy director, Allegheny County Department of Human Services. "There has been harm on both sides."

"I want to know that they've worked in urban communities," said David Harris, a professor in the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

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