- Pittsburgh’s magnet schools boast high grad rates - 2013-06-14
- Pitt hosts national summit tackling poverty research cuts - 2013-06-14
- Last Dance: AVA Bar & Lounge in East Liberty closing - 2013-06-12
- Abay Ethiopian Cuisine in East Liberty to close after 10 years - 2013-06-08
- Is a woman’s appearance key to her career? - 2013-06-07
Created on Wednesday, 20 February 2013 09:39 Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 February 2013 09:39 Published on Wednesday, 20 February 2013 09:39 Written by Rebecca Nuttall - Courier Staff Writer Hits: 1749
While Officer Tonya Ford travelled to Harrisburg on Feb. 8 to advocate for a youth crime prevention program with local State Rep. Jake Wheatley and City Councilman Daniel Lavelle, controversy surrounding the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and Chief Nate Harper was rising to a fever pitch.
A few days later, a Channel 4 News crew ascended on Ford’s home to shoot footage of her house for a story on her private business and connections to Chief Harper. The story produced by Channel 4 included the value of her house, how much she made in take home pay last year, and footage of the vehicle her husband uses in work for the FBI.
Ford has been thrust into the spotlight due to controversy surrounding Chief Harper, who is currently involved in a federal investigation regarding a city contract with a firm that was paid to install radios and computers into Pittsburgh police cars. While new allegations seem to be sprouting daily in the media against Harper and his subordinates, none has been charged with a crime, or disciplined within the Police Bureau.
Among the media’s allegations of impropriety is Harper and Ford’s involvement in Diverse Public Safety Consultants LLC, a company formed along with colleagues Cmdr. Eric Holmes, Sgt. Barry Budd, and Tamara Davis, who works in the police personnel and finance office. However, Ford said the company does not violate any laws or policies because it is not yet operational.
“They are attacking me as if no other police have businesses,” Ford said. “Are you investigating the people who you know have these companies? I don’t really care, but if you’re coming after me, it (shouldn’t) be a double standard.”
The media has also attacked Ford for selling goods and services through her private business D&T Enterprises, which provided catering at a police event, and for selling police memorabilia through her company Police Memories. According to the city code of conduct, Ford’s actions could be considered an ethics violation because employees are prohibited “from using official title, insignia or position in connection with any private business from which the public official or city employee receives compensation.”
But how common are side businesses like Ford’s among other police officers? According to news reports on the Jordan Miles case, where three police officers were accused of beating a then 18-year-old CAPA High School student, a private polygraph firm owned by a Ross Township police officer administered polygraph tests on the three officers. In the city, police officers are trained in self-defense techniques at Wright’s Gym, which is owned by a veteran officer on the force.
Ford’s colleague Cmdr. Holmes has also come under scrutiny in the media for his involvement in the consulting firm and a fulltime position he took with Slippery Rock University while simultaneously working as a sergeant for the Pittsburgh police in 2007. Chief Harper has been attacked for approving Holmes’ outside employment, and for Holmes’ promotion last year from sergeant to commander, which skips a rank.
“The reporting has been so slanted. It’s been biased and racist in the clearest form,” said Officer Brenda Tate. “No other chief has been harassed like this.”
Veteran Officer Tate and others have come to Ford and the other officers’ defense recently to decry the media coverage of the incidents. They also say the positive work of the officers is being ignored.
“It’s not that I’m a hard worker or educated, there has to be something else going on,” said Ford about the allegations of misconduct. “You say how much I made; you say how much my house costs, but you never say what I’ve done for the community.”
In addition to Ford’s work to bring a Police Athletic League youth crime prevention program to Pittsburgh, Ford has been instrumental in developing numerous youth initiatives including the city’s 52 Weeks of Peace, Adopt a Block, Safety Kids, and Junior Police Academy programs. She also created the Cops and Kids Summer Camp, which serves 180 children each year.
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the New Pittsburgh Courier Digital Daily newsletter!
- Pitt hosts national summit tackling poverty research cuts (2)
- Last Dance: AVA Bar & Lounge in East Liberty closing (5)
- A White South African's memories of Nelson Mandela (2)
- Black politicians need to learn to steal from the right people (1)
- Homeowners Bill of Rights emerge as remedy to foreclosure (1)