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Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper Steps Down

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) –- Pittsburgh's police chief, who has been under intensifying scrutiny for weeks, is now out.

Nate Harper was removed as police chief Wednesday afternoon amid a growing federal investigation. Harper resigned at the request of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

The Mayor met with FBI investigators at the Federal Building for two hours on Wednesday, and is not the focus of the investigation.

Mayor Ravenstahl called it a sad day for a lot of people in the city.

KDKA's Ralph Iannotti reports:

At a news conference Wednesday evening, Mayor Ravenstahl offered a statement on the developments and took questions from reporters.

Mayor Ravenstahl's Full Statement: "Today, I met with the U.S. Attorney's Office and Federal authorities about their ongoing investigation into Police Bureau matters. As of today, I have learned enough to ask Chief Harper for his immediate resignation. He has agreed and has resigned effective immediately. Let me also be very clear, I have been informed by the U.S. Attorneys that I am not a target of the investigation. I would like to answer all of your questions, but please in advance understand that I cannot endanger any ongoing investigation by specifically discussing what information I have learned or discussions that I have had. This issue has not, is not and will not be treated politically. As mayor, I must act on facts, not innuendos. I cannot rush to judgment, but must exercise sound judgment and caution. Others without my responsibilities can afford to be quick to judge, making politically expedient statements, but I cannot."

Click the links below to watch Mayor Ravenstahl's News Conference:

Mayor Ravenstahl says Assistant Chief Regina McDonald has taken over duties as acting chief.

Three hours after Harper's resignation from office, an attorney made an authorized statement on his behalf. Robert Del Greco said Harper decided to retire with heavy heart because of the ongoing distractions and investigations involving the police department.

It reads in full: "It is apparent to me that the ongoing distractions and investigations make it no longer possible for Nate Harper to dedicate the time and energy necessary to faithfully discharge his duties as Police Chief. Consequently, it is with a heavy heart that he has decided to retire as Police Chief for the City of Pittsburgh effective immediately. He has asked me to convey that God has blessed him and that he is truly appreciative to have been able to serve as a police officer for 36 years and as the Chief of Police for the last 6 and a half years. Chief Harper wants to thank Mayor Ravenstahl for putting his trust in him, his fellow police officers whose friendship and service he has always valued and the citizens of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County for their support and cooperation during his tenure."

Following the chief's ouster, City Controller Michael Lamb issued a statement calling on the Mayor to address the ongoing issue. In a press release Lamb says, "The ongoing issues and investigations into the Police Department go much further than just Chief Harper and his dismissal does not solve the issue at hand."

KDKA NewsRadio 1020's Bill Rehkopf interview with Michael Lamb:

KDKA NewsRadio 1020's Bill Rehkopf talked with City Councilman Bill Peduto just after the announcement:

Last week, FBI agents took boxes of documents from the special events office, and from the Pittsburgh Police federal credit union.

Sources say the FBI is looking into whether money from the so-called special events "details" that should have gone into the city's general fund may have been diverted into a police credit union account, an account that sources say, was opened and recently closed by Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper.

KDKA Investigator Marty Griffin has learned that the FBI believes several thousand dollars that may have been illegally moved to the credit union account, was spent at a downtown restaurant in January at a party for a police commander who was promoted to sergeant.

FBI agents are also looking into allegations that money was improperly used to pay for condos for high ranking city leaders to use during the G-20 summit, including Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, and Chief Harper.

Credit union documents show hotel room charges of more than $2,500 dollars, air travel to Chicago, and dining charges, some as far away as the Palm restaurant in Denver.

Sources say the money was moved from special events account at the police department into the credit union account.

The Mayor's office released a statement saying that they are aware of the accounts at the Police Credit Union, some of which were opened in 2004. They are now investigating how the funds in those accounts were used, and by whom.

Pittsburgh Controller Lamb says if any money was moved from a city account to a credit union account he would consider it theft.

KDKA NewsRadio 1020's interview with Duquesne University Professor Joe Mistik who is a political expert:

The FBI is also looking at a number of special events checks which should have been deposited into the City of Pittsburgh account, but somehow ended up in the credit union account.

"It deeply concerns me, how the checks were deposited, and why." Lamb said.

KDKA's Marty Griffin reports:

FBI agents removed records, and boxes of evidence from the credit union last week. Sources say Police Chief Nate Harper closed the account several weeks ago.

It was also announced Monday, that an independent review of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police's policies will be led by a former Washington County District Attorney.
According to a press release from the Mayor's Office, Steven M. Toprani will be reviewing how the policies apply to officers with other jobs or businesses outside of the bureau.

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