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Identity & Community

New Police Chief McLay Outlines Job Goals

Incoming Police Chief Cameron McLay vowed to restore trust and rebuild morale in the police bureau during his first public appearance in Pittsburgh Friday.

McLay, who was nominated for the position by Mayor Bill Peduto Sept. 2, will begin work Monday, replacing acting Chief Regina McDonald. McDonald had been serving in that post since February 2013, when former chief Nate Harper resigned. Harper is serving 18 months in federal prison for using approximately $32,000 in city funds on personal expenditures.

McLay, 56, comes from Madison, Wisconsin, where he served as captain of police from 2005 until his retirement earlier this year. He is also a leadership development consultant for the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

“I don’t need to come to the city of Pittsburgh to change its inherent value systems,” McLay said. “We already know that needs to occur to cause the police to work in partnership with our communities. We simply have to roll up our sleeves, be willing to adapt to the way that we deliver police services and be willing to change.”

The new chief is joining a police force with low morale that is struggling to identify with the city’s African American community, according to Peduto.

To address this, McLay said he wants to change the system to be more responsive to meet the needs of citizens. McLay, the first outside hire for police chief in Pittsburgh history, thinks coming from out of town gives him a different perspective.

“I will recognize things and be able to ask questions, ‘Why do you do that? Have you thought about this?’” McLay said. “I will be able to provide insights that they may not have seen. The biggest impediment, of course, is likely to be distrust and fear.”

McLay plans to conduct community surveys and visit police stations across the city to speak with officers and officials.

Working with the community will enhance the relationship between the police bureau and the public, he said.

“When they know us, and they understand our motives, they will be willing to work more readily with us,” McLay said. “When we do that, we avoid the collateral damage that causes the breaks and causes the separation.”

McLay will also work to overhaul the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime (PIRC), a strategy by the city and the U.S. Attorney’s office  begun in 2010 to reduce homicides in the city.

The PIRC has been unresponsive in recent years, and McClay said he wants to “push the reset button.”

“I believe we’re likely going to need to start over,” McLay said. “There has been a lot of good work done up to this point but a lot of the stakeholders who need to be at the table, I’m told, have not been at the table in a long time.”

McClay also wants the police bureau to adopt new policing technology including a system of real time data collection that can be used to shift resources based on where crime is happening.

McLay, who lived in Mt. Lebanon from 1971 to 1974, said he plans to live in Squirrel Hill.

He has yet to be confirmed by City Council.