Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto introduces first chief hired from outside city's police bureau



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PITTSBURGH — Mayor Bill Peduto made history by introducing the city's new police chief.

"Today marks the first time we've gone outside of our police bureau to have a new chief," Peduto said at Friday's introductory news conference for Cameron McLay.

McLay, 56, was most recently a police captain in Madison, Wisconsin, and will start work Monday. He replaces interim Chief Regina McDonald, who had essentially been a caretaker since the former chief, Nate Harper, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison in February.

Harper, 61, who rose through the ranks to become chief in 2006, was hired as a patrolman in 1977. He pleaded guilty to diverting fees the city collected for police hired to perform off-duty security details into an illegal slush fund, and using about $32,000 of the money on personal expenditures.

McLay acknowledged taking over a force said to be operating with poor morale and struggling to relate to the city's black community, but hopes to use surveys and other research to reverse those trends.

McLay also suggested he wants his officers to police differently than they have in the past — and differently than officers do in other cities where they've lost the trust of the community with tactics he called "overbearing, abusive and even oppressive."

When that happens "departments lose the consent to serve the very citizens they're sworn to protect," he said.

McLay is hoping to use everything from real-time crime data to deploy officers more effectively, to management and community surveys to gauge strengths and issues to be corrected.

He acknowledged his status as an outsider could be an advantage in that he'll be able to recognize problems that a more entrenched chief might miss, but acknowledged he could face an "uphill battle" if some of his troops distrust or fear him.

Officer Howard McQuillan, president of the city police union, observed the conference, but left without commenting or taking questions. He didn't immediately return a call for comment.

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