New public safety director to oversee troubled departments

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Before he spent two decades with the FBI and a half-dozen years with the Pennsylvania State Police, Stephen A. Bucar worked for the tiny West Brownsville police department in Washington County.

At a news conference Tuesday, Mr. Bucar, the mayor’s pick for public safety director, said he plans to draw from his experience at all three as he takes on the challenge of overseeing — and hopefully changing — some of the city’s most troubled bureaus.

“It’s what attracted me [to the job]. I like a challenge. I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t a challenge,” he said.

Mayor names Stephen Bucar new public safety director

Mayor Bill Peduto used a news conference today to introduce Stephen A. Bucar as his nominee for public safety director. (Video by Nate Guidry; 6/10/2014)

“It’s a challenge I feel comfortable with because of my background.”

Among the challenges he faces: a fire union that’s currently battling the city in a lawsuit; a police bureau whose morale tanked when its former chief pleaded guilty to federal charges and a building inspection bureau that’s long been hampered by antiquated technology.

He got the job because he matched the profile of what Mayor Bill Peduto was looking for: “somebody who was like Eliot Ness,” a storied federal Prohibition agent known for his inability to be corrupted.

Barely 24 hours into the job, Mr. Bucar offered few specifics about how he planned to move forward Tuesday.

He planned to tour fire and police stations and meet top brass in all the bureaus he will oversee, which also include the bureaus of emergency medical services and animal control.

But he emphasized repeatedly that he was up for the challenge and that he would draw on the “sense of duty” shared by those in public safety.

“People don’t get into this profession to get rich,” he said. “They do it because they have a sense of duty and they’re trying … to make the world a better place. I’m hoping we can find common ground.”

When it comes to repairing community relations, he called policing “an art, not a science,” and emphasized the solution to rebuilding the relationship may involve a combination of steps. He also hinted that he may remodel disciplinary processes for uniformed personnel.

He said neither the FBI nor the Pennsylvania State Police were free of the same discipline problems that plague local police departments.

But he believes they’ve been more effective in dealing with those problems and that their disciplinary structures could serve as a useful model for the city.

“Both are very professional organizations that have the same discipline problems as all other agencies. but you don’t hear about all the negative information in those departments,” he said.

“But they deal with them. They have a structure, a process that reinforces the character and the integrity that they want from their staff.

“I’m going to be using that as a model to be looking at the department of public safety and seeing where the weaknesses are.”

He’ll also assist in finding a new police chief, a critical decision for a bureau that has been bruised by scandal and with chronic community relations problems.

Mr. Peduto said at Tuesday’s news conference that he wants the community to help develop criteria for the next chief. He hopes to have a new chief by Labor Day.

Moriah Balingit:, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. First Published June 10, 2014 11:40 AM

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