Slow and deliberate: Pittsburgh must take time to find the right chief

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City officials can take steps today to make sure they find the best candidate to be Pittsburgh's next police chief.

First, they should slow down. The department is in turmoil due to a federal investigation, questionable accounting practices regarding officers' off-duty details and the forced resignation of longtime chief Nate Harper -- but that's no reason to act quickly.

Quite the opposite. Uncertainty over where the probe will lead and who will be Pittsburgh's mayor after the November election creates a climate that could make attracting the best person unlikely. As long as competent leaders can run the department on an interim basis, there is no need for haste.

Second, the person elected to replace Luke Ravenstahl should be part of the process. No good will come of appointing a permanent chief for eight months and then having to go through the process again in January.

Third, the city should contract with a search firm to help it look nationwide and locally. And yes, although the bureau's troubles may suggest the need to go outside the department, it would be wrong to assume a good chief can't be found within current police ranks.

Finally, it is important to involve residents, community leaders, officers and others in an open process. City council's public hearing Wednesday was a wise, first step.

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