Promotion within Pittsburgh Bureau of Police causes controversy

PITTSBURGH — A big promotion in the Pittsburgh Police department has ignited a firestorm of controversy.

Target 11 Investigator Rick Earle has learned that Mayor Bill Peduto plans to promote his longtime bodyguard, Sgt. Phil Carey, to an assistant police chief position, passing over lieutenants and commanders.

Multiple officers reached out to Target 11 to express their concern and opposition to the move. Fearing reprisal and speaking under the condition of anonymity, one officer said it was a slap in the face.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous. Promoting someone based on loyalty as opposed to actual knowledge. It’s a damn shame. The department is a mess.”

Others criticized the mayor for taking care of his friend and confidant before leaving office. Wednesday, Earle questioned the mayor about the promotion.

“You know what those are the same people that want this type of system to continue on with the police bureau. and they want to be the ones who promote. ... They want their friends to be the ones that constantly get promoted. We’re going to break that system before I leave,” said Peduto.

Critics contend Carey doesn’t have enough supervisory experience in his 26 years with the Bureau. He served as an officer and a detective before becoming a sergeant, while working as the Mayor’s bodyguard.

Earle asked Peduto if Carey is qualified for the job.

“Yes. He is retired from the US Army. He has had six commands in Afghanistan. He has served in Bosnia. He has had commands in Africa,” said Peduto.

As a sergeant, Carey made more than $87,000 plus overtime, which last year pushed his salary to more than $200,000. As an assistant chief, he’ll make more than $123,000 with no overtime, but it will increase his pension. Peduto lashed out at his critics in his interview with Earle.

“That’s one of the problems within the police bureau. There are people that look simply at what you’ve done while you wore the patch as a Pittsburgh Bureau of Police officer, and they want promoted simply because of that. And they give them this old school old boy network and that has to change. You have to be promoted for who you are,” said Peduto.

The president of the police officers’ union had no comment on the promotion, but he did tell Target 11 that the Bureau is down 15 sergeants who serve as field supervisors, and he believes that’s a much more pressing need than creating another assistant chief position.

“You need to make sure the field is adequately supervised before you expand the upper levels of command and management. Show me an agency that doesn’t have adequate field supervision and I’ll show you an agency that will get in trouble very quickly,” said Union President Robert Swartzwelder.