Over a year ago, the chief of police in Pittsburgh resigned during a corruption scandal. (He subsequently pled guilty and has been sentenced to eighteen months in federal prison.) Very shortly after that, the incumbent mayor announced he would not seek re-election and would leave the selection of a new chief to the next Mayor.
In one of the posts I wrote about these events, I asked what process a new mayor should follow in searching for a new chief.
Mayor Bill Peduto took office in January of 2014, and announced that he would first select a new Public Safety Director. (In Pittsburgh, the Public Safety Director oversees not only the Pittsburgh Police Bureau, but also EMS and fire services. ) The Mayor would appoint a new chief after that, with the advice of the new Public Safety Director.
The new Public Safety Director, Stephen Bucar has begun his job (he is acting Director, since the City Council has not yet confirmed him). An article in today’s Pittsburgh-Post Gazette describes the porcess that the Mayor and the Public Safety Director plan to follow:
Six months after Mayor Bill Peduto took office, he announced plans Wednesday to conduct a series of public meetings aimed at giving officials insight into what residents hope to find in a new Pittsburgh police chief.The mayor, through a spokesman, outlined plans to conduct meetings in conjunction with the public safety councils at each of the city’s six neighborhood police stations.He also unveiled a new website where people can leave their suggestions….“This is going to be a public outreach directly to the people of Pittsburgh asking them what they want in a police chief,” Mr. Peduto said in a statement.
The article also mentions a “search committee tasked with developing a list of candidates for the Mayor and [Mr.] Bucar to consider,” but gives no detail about the committee, its composition, or its duties.
This process is leaps-and-bounds different from the usual way that Pittsburgh mayors have made high-level appointments. The pubic has a chance to have input. Though it’s less than clear how much what the public wants will matter, the step of opening the process up means that the Mayor recognizes just how important this appointment is to the public. In my opinion, the citizens of Pittsburgh should give the Mayor and the process the benefit of the doubt as we go forward.
Readers: what do you think of the process outlined here? What would you do differently? What did your city do differently when it last faced this choice?