First reform: The new mayor must address outside police work
January 8, 2014 7:55 PM
Mayor Bill Peduto said at his inauguration that his election itself was not political reform — “it only offers us the chance to begin.”
An analysis of the police bureau’s policies on the outside employment of officers is the perfect starting point. The 25-page review by Steven M. Toprani, a former Washington County prosecutor, did not uncover much new information. Instead, it summarized much of the press coverage on how lax or nonexistent city practices allowed officers to work as private detectives and security consultants without monitoring.
The most well-known example, former police chief Nate Harper, was the trigger for Mr. Toprani’s review. The former chief, while still running the department, was one of the organizers of a private security company with several of his employees. One of them, a city police sergeant, also worked full-time for Slippery Rock University.
Mr. Toprani characterized the activities as the sort that undermine confidence in the bureau and create the potential for misuse of official records and resources.
Although Pittsburgh is not alone, Mr. Toprani found that other cities with similarly unregulated practices have since restricted their officers’ work, including Los Angeles, Boston, Cincinnati and Seattle.
Pittsburgh must follow suit and fix its rules, a process that is underway.
City council and public safety director Mike Huss — a finalist for the position in the new administration — have started to tighten up on the procedures for moonlighting jobs in which officers work off-duty details. Mr. Huss also asked acting police chief Regina McDonald to prepare a new policy regarding other outside employment.
Mr. Peduto must be vigilant so this important reform doesn’t fall through the cracks. It is his responsibility to see that clear policies are in place and enforced, and that whoever he puts in charge of the bureau understands the task as job number one.
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