Accreditation Bid for Police on Hold

Article excerpt

A state accreditation commission halted its assessment of the Pittsburgh Police Department because of the federal investigation into the bureau's use of funds weeks before the department expected to win accreditation for the first time.

"We're going to table that report until we get a better understanding of the situation of the police department there," said Joe Blackburn, accreditation and training coordinator for the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association. "We're just going to take it day-to-day and see."

Acting police Chief Regina McDonald said through spokeswoman Diane Richard that she understands the concerns of the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl forced former Chief Nate Harper to resign Feb. 20, citing an FBI investigation into use of police funds. The FBI is investigating how money was diverted from the bureau's Special Events Office into a secret account at the Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union.

Public Safety Director Michael Huss said he was disappointed but understood the reasoning behind the commission's decision. He said the process has helped the bureau.

"It was always more about the process and getting there than the certificate on the wall," Huss said. "The work and the preparation and the review is the real benefit."

City code requires the police chief to attain and maintain accreditation, and a resolution council passed in 2010 urges the department to obtain accreditation from the state commission.

"It is a way of codifying their policies through an outside body's professional standards," said Councilman Ricky Burgess of North Point Breeze, who sponsored the resolution. "The best way to improve public safety is to increase community confidence in the police force."

After years of trying, Pittsburgh police were near the end of the process. Assessors from the commission conducted on-site inspections, the final phase in accreditation, on Jan. 9 and 10, Blackburn said. They were supposed to prepare a report and present it to the commission for a vote on approval April 3, he said.

"We may come back to take a look at some new and revised policies when the time comes," Blackburn said.

Said McDonald: "Revisions to policy are an ongoing effort."

McDonald said Harper made accreditation a priority. …