FBI seizes documents from Pittsburgh police HQ

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PITTSBURGH – The FBI on Tuesday seized boxes of documents from the headquarters of the city’s police department, where the chief has been under scrutiny lately, but authorities wouldn’t disclose who or what was being investigated.


City Solicitor Daniel Regan said the U.S. attorney’s office served him with a subpoena for police records on Monday, and police spokeswoman Diane Richard confirmed FBI agents took documents from the headquarters on Tuesday.


Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson said between four and six FBI agents visited the Special Events and Personnel and Finance offices. He said they took records involving secondary employment, training and travel. He said he didn’t think there was anything illegal going on inside but welcomed the outside investigation.


“I think this is hopefully the beginning of the end,” Donaldson said. “An outside agency comes in and looks at our workings, and we can go back to normal.”


Last year a former friend of police Chief Nate Harper’s was charged in connection with a bribery scheme on a contract to install radios and computers in police cars, and last week it emerged that Harper helped form a private security consulting firm with a civilian clerk and three city officers, including one he promoted from sergeant to commander. That promoted Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to say that having a police chief in business with subordinates is unacceptable, though Harper said the consulting firm wasn’t operational.


Also, five off-duty police officers shot at a car on a crowded street in January after a chase. That shooting is under investigation, but the officers were cleared to return to duty. And in early February a former cashier for the police records office was charged with stealing more than $15,000.


On Saturday, city Controller Michael Lamb announced an audit of the Special Events office, which oversees off-duty work by officers. Lamb said his office was looking at how the police handle money paid by private entities for security services.


Regan said the city agreed to cooperate with the FBI agents who took documents on Tuesday.


“We discussed this with them, and we agreed that the most efficient and effective way to comply with the subpoena would be to have representatives of the police bureau meet with them and provide them with the records,” Regan said.


Harper didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, and the U.S. attorney’s office in Pittsburgh declined to comment.


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