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Mayor Bill Peduto meets with police to discuss search for new chief

Written by Robert Zullo on .

Mayor Bill Peduto said the first of two meetings with the police bureau's rank and file to solicit input on the search for a new chief was planned to last an hour.

Instead, it went for three.

"There was a lot of discussion," Mr. Peduto said. "I was surprised by some of the talk because it was very much in line with the comments we've been saying about what we're looking for in a police chief and also what the community's been saying as well."

Mr. Peduto's spokesman, Tim McNulty, said about two dozen officers attended.

Mr. Peduto and Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar have said they seek an even-handed disciplinarian with a background in big-city policing to replace former Chief Nate Harper, who began serving a federal prison sentence earlier this year related to a scheme that funneled department money into unauthorized accounts for his own personal use.

The new chief will take over a police bureau that is widely cited as suffering from low morale and one that struggles to hold officers accountable for misconduct.

"Officers want to see discipline but they want to see discipline done in a fair way, something that they feel hasn't been done in the past," Mr. Peduto said. "They want somebody who has experience, experience in dealing with a place like Pittsburgh, not somebody from a suburban area ... a city cop who has worked their way up who understands it and has an ability to communicate."

Mr. Peduto, elected last year, said he was told it was the first time in two decades that a mayor has sought input from the rank and file on the selection of a new chief.

"I can't answer for 20 years," he said. "I can answer for seven months. Sorry it took this long."

The next meeting with the officers will be Aug. 6, and the mayor said he expects a larger group of officers to attend.

The application period for police chief closes Thursday. Mr. Peduto said about 40 people have applied for the position.

Representatives for the Pittsburgh police union could not immediately be reached for comment.

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