Mayor looks outside Pittsburgh police department for chief's replacement

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PITTSBURGH - Following the resignation of Pittsburgh's former police Chief Nate Harper Wednesday, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said he is already looking to fill the position –- with someone from outside the organization.

Ravenstahl said he asked Harper to resign amid two separate investigations by the FBI and a grand jury. The investigations include a look into several police-related bank accounts, including who controlled them and how the money was spent.

“As of today, I have learned enough to ask Chief Harper for his resignation and he has effective immediately,” Ravenstahl said Wednesday night.

On Thursday Ravenstahl told Channel 11 News that a permanent replacement for Harper will likely come from outside – a move that will be in the best interest of the entire police department.

"I have already reached outside in an attempt to find a replacement. That doesn't necessarily mean that will be the case. But I think given the situation -- if we are able to find somebody from the outside to come in and really put a new vision and stamp on the bureau -- I think that will be important," said Ravenstahl.

Channel 11's Alan Jennings reported that Ravenstahl went on to say that finding someone from another organization is his preference.

“My sense is that there should be great interest in this position. It’s a great position and a great opportunity,” Ravenstahl said.

Harper, 60, of Stanton Heights, had led the department since 2006.

Ravenstahl named Assistant Chief Regina McDonald the acting head of the police bureau. McDonald previously served as the department's assistant chief.

The executive director of the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board gave McDonald high praise.

"I have a great deal of respect for her. She's been there, as I said, for a very long time. She has institutional knowledge and has a reputation for being an efficient administrator. At this time I think that's what the bureau needs," said Beth Pittinger.

A federal investigation of Harper became public in January centering on whether the chief was involved in awarding a contract to a shell company set up by his one-time friend Art Bedway, 63, of Robinson, owner of Carnegie-based Victory Security.

The investigation blossomed when agents last week seized files from police headquarters in the North Side and records from the Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union. The credit union board president said investigators looked at an account Harper's office opened. Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson said the headquarters search centered on money from the special events office, which coordinates moonlighting by officers.

Ravenstahl called for a review of the bureau on Feb. 8 upon learning Harper partnered with four subordinates in creating the private security firm Diverse Public Safety Consultants LLC.