PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – Pittsburgh met its new Police Chief Friday for the first time.

At a news conference, Police Chief-designate Cameron McLay was introduced by Mayor Bill Peduto.

The 56-year-old McLay began his career in law enforcement as a patrolman with the Indiana University Police Department in 1979. Starting in 1984, he worked as a patrol officer with the police department in Madison, Wisconsin, for five years, and then became a full-time training officer.

McLay has 35 years of police experience and has been a consultant with the International Association of Chiefs of Police since last year.

He is a use of force expert, served on Madison’s SWAT team for 24 years and was also a captain with the Madison Police Department, city officials said.

He is also the first police chief not to rise to the top from within the city’s bureau of police. He sees advantages to being an outsider to the department.

“Cultural anthropologists have a joke, to the extent that anthropologists are funny, they say we’re not sure who discovered water, but we’re pretty sure it wasn’t the fish. When you grow up in the culture, you’re part of that culture and elements of that culture are completely blind to you,” said McLay. “They are just simply normal and so you don’t see it.”

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.

“My job will be to close the gap between the police and the community,” McLay said as he met the press.

He listed a number of changes he hopes to implement:

  • Restore accountability
  • Dispersed leadership
  • Community surveys
  • Rebuild confidence and pride in bureau


He wasn’t sure yet whether he would try to expand the witness protection program, but said there’s another element to recruiting witnesses to come forward.

“My hope is by building relationships based on trust, people will be more willing to share; and then, once we have those relationships, it might become easier to find out and see what we can do to fix those legitimate safety concerns,” said McLay.

He also announced that the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime, which has stalled, will be implemented.

“This is the direction we’re going. The bureau is going to be responsive and those who are not on board with the direction we’re going will need to be held accountable, it’s really just quite that simple,” McLay said.

McLay is expected to start work Monday and replaces interim Chief Regina McDonald. McDonald has been a caretaker since the former chief, Nate Harper, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison earlier this year.

Harper 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.

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