Time for a police chief: The stage is set and the city needs strong leadership

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Mayor Bill Peduto has said he won’t be rushed into selecting a new police chief, but the stage is set now for him to do so soon.

On Thursday, the last of six community meetings was held to give citizens a chance to say what qualities they’d like in a Pittsburgh police chief.

On Wednesday, his choice as public safety director, former FBI agent Stephen A. Bucar, underwent a three-hour city council confirmation hearing and is expected to be approved next week to run the department that includes the police bureau as well as those of fire, emergency medical services, building inspection and animal control.

And on Tuesday, city council had to approve yet another settlement of a claim of improper actions by a police officer, the development that speaks the loudest to the need for consistent, professional leadership at the head of the police force.

When council approved the $115,000 payment to a North Apollo woman, it became the third six-figure judgment this year against the city related to allegations of excessive force or misconduct by police — the others were jury verdicts, one for $105,000 stemming from an excessive force claim and the other for $119,000 for the false arrest of Jordan Miles, a Homewood teen at the time of his apprehension. The city’s four-year tab for settlements and judgments related to alleged police misconduct is approaching $1 million.

The vast majority of officers serve honorably, and allegations against a handful is not an indictment of the entire police force. Dealing with difficult personnel issues, though, is a primary task of a strong leader, which Pittsburgh needs in a full-time, permanent chief.

Pittsburgh has been without one for 17 months, since former chief Nate Harper was forced to resign before being indicted and then pleading guilty to diverting public funds for his own use and failing to file tax returns.

Mr. Peduto says he will have a qualified chief in place sometime after Labor Day. That can’t happen soon enough.

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