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Politics & Government

Mayor Ravenstahl Hires Former DA to Probe Police Policies

Noah Brode/90.5 WESA

As mayoral opponents and others increase their calls for the removal of Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced Monday he has hired former Washington County District Attorney Steven M. Toprani to lead the City’s independent review of “Pittsburgh Bureau of Police policies and procedures related to officers who hold other jobs or own businesses not regulated by the Police Bureau.”

In recent weeks the FBI has used subpoenas to take several boxes of documents from Pittsburgh Police Headquarters on the North Side and from the Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union.  The subpoenas are said to be part of an ongoing federal grand jury investigation.  

In a written statement the Ravenstahl administration said Toprani will begin his work immediately “reviewing current police policies and procedures as they relate to governing officers who ‘work outside of work.’”

The mayor has continued to stand behind his chief of police even as rumors of ties to a bid rigging scheme and word of the formation of a consulting company involving the chief surfaced.

“Our goal is to implement clear-cut policies that reform if, how and when officers can conduct other work or business outside of their capacities as officers.  We must ensure that the primary focus of every officer is keeping our neighborhoods safe,” Ravenstahl said in a press release regarding the appointment of Toprani.

Ravenstahl said the findings of Toprani’s investigation would be made public when the review is complete.

City Controller Michael Lamb, who is running against the mayor in the May Democratic primary, has been highly critical of the way the Ravenstahl administration has been handling the affair.

“The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police has been engulfed in controversy the past few months, distracting from their core duty of protecting the people of Pittsburgh,” said Lamb.  “The Bureau needs leadership from the Mayor… If Chief Harper is not prepared to step down, the Mayor needs to make that decision for him.”

Pittsburgh Councilman and mayoral candidate Bill Peduto has also called for the chief to step aside.  “The people of Pittsburgh need a chief of police that is focused on the safety of the public 24/7, not a chief that is distracted by a federal grand jury, FBI agents raiding police headquarters, and daily allegations of misconduct. Mayor Ravenstahl must immediately place Chief on Harper on a leave of absence, so that the chief can focus on those issues,” said Peduto.

Toprani currently serves as counsel with Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl. He recently served as the District Attorney for Washington County.  It is unclear how long Toprani’s review will take.