CELESTE TAYLOR (Photo by J.L. Martello)
When former Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Chief Nate Harper resigned last month, members of the community jumped at the chance to have their input considered in the selection of a new police chief. A few weeks later, when Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced he would not seek re-election, amidst controversy surrounding his involvement in the police bureau’s alleged corruption, the community saw the potential to revolutionize the bureau as a whole.
On March 6, more than 20 community representatives voiced their vision for a new police chief and reform in the bureau at a public hearing before city council.
“We’re asking that the mayor not make an appointment during the rest of his term in office,” said Tim Stevens, chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project. “We still don’t know really what happened. However there will be a new chief so this is as good a time as any to begin having a conversation about what we want in a new chief. We don’t know what happened but we know what we want to see.”
Following the public hearing, on March 11 Mayor Ravenstahl answered the request of many at the public hearing by deferring the selection of a new police chief to the incoming mayor to be elected in November. This means Pittsburgh will have to wait nearly a year to see changes in the police bureau.
“This is going to go on for a long time. The new police chief will not be appointed for a long time,” said District 6 City Councilman Daniel Lavelle. “We need a severe cultural change from within our system. Whoever becomes our next police chief needs a mayor who will back them up. We need someone who’s willing to stand up against those outside forces.”
At the public hearing, members of city council were also given the opportunity to share their criteria for a new police chief. While Councilmen Rev. Ricky Burgess, who sponsored the public hearing, and Bill Peduto, who is running for mayor, have laid out their vision for the next police chief and changes in the bureau, other council representatives were not so quick to define their criteria.