Embattled Pittsburgh police chief resigns

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PITTSBURGH POLICE CHIEF NATE HARPER

by Ulish Carter

Courier Staff Writer

Embattled Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper has resigned at the mayor’s request.

“At this point it gave me enough, and I learned enough to ask Chief Harper for his resignation,” said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

At a press conference Feb. 20, Ravenstahl said that after a meeting early Wednesday with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office he asked the 60-year-old Harper to step down and Chief Harper resigned.

The move came a week after federal agents gathered boxes of records from police headquarters and just days after City Controller and mayoral candidate Michael Lamb announced an audit of the force’s special events office.

Ravenstahl ordered a review of the police bureau on Feb. 8 after learning that Harper partnered with four subordinates to form a private security firm — including a man he promoted to commander.

The mayor stated several times in his press conference that “I’m not a target” in the investigation of the FBI or the U.S. Attorney’s office.

The mayor said as mayor, unlike others running for his office, he was not willing to ask Chief  Harper to step down before because he didn’t have enough information and the chief had not been charged with anything. However, after a meeting with the feds, called by them, he said he had learned enough to ask for the resignation. Which means charges against the chief must be coming.

Assistant Chief Regina McDonald will take over as the acting chief until a new one can be appointed. The mayor said that he would start looking for a new chief immediately and that other changes could be coming.  The mayor said Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson, who normally would take over, is going on vacation.

Chief Harper, who has denied any wrongdoing, was appointed chief by the mayor in October 2006 and had served 35 years on the force. He had served in just about every capacity before being named chief. He was just the third Black police chief in Pittsburgh history.

Even though there had been no formal charges by anyone against him the local media has asked for the chief’s firing because he had been linked to several improprieties.

They were: he joined a group of other officers to form a security firm which he stated was for his retirement and it had not started up yet.

He was a friend of businessman Arthur Bedway who gained a $327,000 contract in 2007 to install and maintain radios and computers in police cars. He is currently being investigated by a federal grand jury.

The “detail mafia” is also being investigated. This is a system set up throughout the country in which off duty police officers earn additional revenue through special details in which they are paid time and a half, and the city also receives a cut for providing security to stadiums, grocery stores, traffic and other details. A firm by the name of Cover Your Assets was brought in to handle this process but there have been multiple complaints that a select few officers are receiving the bulk of the details.

The FBI also confiscated files and records from a credit union account set up by the chief because of allegations of misappropriation of funds.  

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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