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Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

Mayor Peduto On The Police Bureau's Growing Diversity

Keith Srakocic
AP Images

As word that one of the cadets moving through the Pittsburgh Police academy would upon graduation be the first transgender officer hired by the city begins to spread throughout the ranks and being reported by local media, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is calling it a non issue.

“I’m not even sure if that is the case,” said Peduto while on WESA’s Essential Pittsburgh.  “It’s not a criteria that we have as part of a test to become a police officer, nor is it something that we can even ask.”

Peduto said the criteria for becoming an officer is very different than asking about sexual identity.

“Do you have the college credits that are required, did you test right on the scores, did you pass the physical and the background checks… and then how well you do through your training as a cadet determines whether or not you get to wear the badge of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police,” Peduto said.

The current class of cadets is among the most diverse class when it comes to gender and race, and Peduto said the city is striving to create as diverse a police force as possible.  Something stressed as recently as last month by Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay when he appeared on the same show.

“We need to do everything we can to recruit the very best people to be Pittsburgh police officers and we need diversity in that pool and not just race and gender but diversity of thought and backgrounds,” said McLay.  “And I’m arguing that there is a need to approach this problem with a sense of urgency.”

Discrimination against transgender individuals in hiring is illegal under city ordinance and Peduto believes race, gender, sexual identity or sexual orientation should never be a factor.

“I view them as the same,” Peduto said.  “As long as they are willing to work hard, be honest and treat people with respect I welcome anybody who wears that uniform.”

Peduto stressed that the city did not bring up this issue or make any announcement about the possibility that a transgender individual is enrolled in the police academy.

While on the show the mayor was also asked about his statements on accepting refugees from Syria into the city. Peduto has been misquoted in social media that the city should accept 10,000 refugees, a number that should have been attributed to President Obama as the number the entire nation should accept.

He added that he’s been shocked to see comments by those wishing to keep refugee families out of the city.

“We’re better than that,” he stated.  “And to simply say no, to simply say ‘it’s not my problem,’ I would not want to live in a world or a city like that.” 

The mayor also addressed his recent efforts to create new economic development and a more resilient city.  He expressed the difficulties of community-based development, specifically in the situation at Penn Plaza where some neighbors have voiced concerns about the city’s plan for a nearby playground. Peduto says he’d like to see the land with the playground transformed into a shared residential area and green space, but some neighbors have pushed back.

“You’ve gotta make deals in order to make things happen,” he said. “And if that means the swing sets have to be a half a block further down, but 200 people have a home in East Liberty, that’s a good deal.”

Peduto also addressed the level of excitement he is feeling in the city as the Pirates prepare to take on the Chicago Cubs in the wild card playoff game Wednesday night.  He wagers that the Buccos will come out on top 2-1 against the Cubs and says he can sense the excitement throughout the city.

“There is a buzz in the air that makes it feel great.”

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.