PITTSBURGH (AP) — The city's new public safety director told reporters he wasn't discouraged from seeking he job because of recent troubles in the city's police bureau, including an ongoing federal grand jury investigation that's already landed the former police chief in prison.
"Actually, it's what attracted me," said Stephen Bucar, a former FBI agent, state trooper and police officer in the tiny borough of West Brownsville. "I like a challenge."Bucar, 54, met with the media Tuesday, a day after he began his $125,000-a-year job, though his appointment by Mayor Bill Peduto still must be formally approved by City Council.One of his first duties will be to hire a police chief to replace Nate Harper, who was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison in February for conspiring to create an unauthorized slush fund that he dipped into.Bucar also inherits union contract negotiations as the city seeks to strengthen rules enabling it to discipline officers and a community relations problem — most notably with black residents, many of whom live in the city's highest crime areas. That was exacerbated most recently by a federal jury that found three white plainclothes officers wrongfully arrested a black teen, and the city's subsequent attempts to get out of paying the $119,000 verdict.Peduto, who took office in January, said it took longer than he hoped to hire a public safety director because the first two people offered the job ended up declining for personal reasons.Peduto sought applications through his Talent City initiative, which seeks to recruit the best and brightest candidates regardless of political clout. "It didn't matter how many yard signs you put up," Peduto said, referring to government employees hired because they supported a particular political candidate.The police chief's $109,000-a-year job is now posted on the Talent City website (www.talent-city.com ), and Peduto hopes to hire a new chief by Labor Day. Before then, Peduto said, the hiring process will be two-pronged: developing professional standards for the new chief to meet and a series of public meetings at which residents will be asked what qualities they want in a chief.Officer Howard McQuillan, the police union president, didn't immediately return requests for comment. When Bucar's appointment was announced last month, McQuillan issued a statement saying, "it would appear Mr. Bucar would have been an excellent choice as police chief, however, we will welcome Mr. Bucar as Public Safety Director and look forward to working with him."Former Public Safety Director Michael Huss and other city officials have cooperated with the ongoing grand jury investigation. Peduto said Huss was one of four finalists for Bucar's job, is helping with the transition and may wind up remaining with the city in an as-yet undescribed position.