Mayor criticizes Chief Harper, calls for overhaul of Police Department policies

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PITTSBURGH - Mayor Luke Ravenstahl on Friday criticized Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper's involvement in a private security business and called for an overhaul of Police Department policies regarding employee moonlighting.

Ravenstahl said what Harper did wasn't illegal, but the chief should have known better than to partner with four police department subordinates in creating Diverse Public Safety Consultants LLC.

"I'm not happy," Ravenstahl said during an appearance at the opening of a new Peruvian restaurant downtown. "When you have a police chief who is in business with his subordinates, it's not acceptable."

Harper could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ravenstahl said he instructed City Solicitor Daniel Regan to seek the help of an outside expert who will review and reform police policies and procedures. While the city cannot prohibit employees from taking a second job, the mayor said, officers must focus on their primary job with the city.

"It's time to reform that bureau," Ravenstahl said. "Our focus will be on policies and procedures ad specifically work outside of work."

Ravenstahl said Harper never informed him or the Legal Department that he was setting up the consulting company with the other officers. He instructed Regan to review Harper's role in the company and determine whether any improprieties exist. Reached earlier Friday, Regan said the review was ongoing. He could not offer a timetable for when it might be finished.

"The mayor asked me for a thorough review and that's what I'm doing," Regan said. "I'm in the process of looking at all the facts and gathering anything I can gather."

Ravenstahl said he discussed the situation with Harper on Thursday and the chief assured him he had done nothing wrong. The city has not disciplined Harper and the chief remains on the job.

"We have a responsibility as the Police Chief and the mayor that we do things that are appropriate," Ravenstahl said. "We have to be above reproach. In my mind, I would hope that he would be smarter than that."

Paperwork was filed with the Pennsylvania Department of State's Corporation Bureau on Feb. 28, 2012, listing Harper and three other city officers — Cmdr. Eric Holmes, Sgt. Barry Budd and Officer Tonya Ford — along with police civilian employee Tamara Davis, as organizers of Diverse Public Safety Consultants.

Ravenstahl said he became aware of it on Wednesday. Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. on Thursday said the chief did nothing illegal by being involved with the creation of the company because it appeared to be dormant.

 

This article was written by Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE.