Gainey announces formation of committee to find next chief of police

·3 min read

“It’s a sad day in Pittsburgh. He gave his heart and soul to this city,” said Theresa Kail-Smith, Pittsburgh City Council president.

Kail-Smith told Earle that she spoke with Schubert because she was concerned about the timing of the announcement.

Kail-Smith, who’s been a longtime supporter of Schubert, said she felt much better after speaking with Schubert Friday.

“It did look suspicious to me, and then when I spoke with him, he assured me this was his decision,” said Kail-Smith.

RELATED COVERAGE: Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert announces retirement after 29 years with bureau

Mayor Gainey said he will form a committee of community members and public safety experts to conduct a nationwide search.

“Our process will be considered around, centering around the voices of community members in this important decision for the future of our police force in our city. It is critical in the work to help build strong police community relations,” said Gainey.

Kail-Smith said she hopes the new police chief will be someone who’s already familiar with streets of Pittsburgh and that there won’t be a learning curve to deal with.

While the mayor has the authority to hire and fire a police chief under the Home Rule Charter, Kail-Smith said council approval is still needed to hire the new chief.

She’s confident residents across the city will have a say, and she said she looks forward to working with the mayor’s office.

“Everybody’s voice has to be heard, but we have to look at everything through a bigger lens and what that means for the city of Pittsburgh,” said Kail-Smith.

Schubert has been with the bureau for 29 years, rising from a patrol officer to chief in 2017.

He guided the department through some tumultuous times, including the tragic Tree of Life shooting where 11 people were killed, the controversial and highly criticized police response to Black Lives Matter protests across the city and the firing of five officers involved in the Tasing death of Jim Rogers.

The executive director of the Citizen Police Review Board said Schubert has had an “accomplished career” and that his legacy should remain intact.

“He cares about the city. He cares about the bureau. That’s his pride and joy. He gave a lot to the city and the city owes him. We owe him at least the respect and the compliment for a job well done,” said Pittinger.

The mayor said he hopes to select a new police chief in about six months. He appointed Deputy Chief Tom Stangrecki to take over as the acting police chief on July 2 when Schubert retires.

While Pittinger said she has confidence in Stangrecki, she is concerned about the void left in the department when a new mayor comes in and changes the police chief.

She suggested perhaps it’s time to start discussing removing politics from the process of selecting a new police chief.

“When administrations change, you expect this sort of thing to happen, but that transition makes the bureau very vulnerable. Maybe we need to consider moving to a contract with the chief of police so that these transitions are overlapped by leadership and we don’t have this period of limbo,” said Pittinger, who acknowledged that’s a long shot and would require a change to the Home Rule Charter.

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