South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

New Pittsburgh public safety director has local ties


Wendell Hissrich

Mayor William Peduto has announced the hiring of Wendell Hissrich as the city's next Public Safety Director.

Mr. Hissrich, 53, has spent a quarter century at Federal Bureau of Investigation overseeing joint law enforcement services with public safety agencies across the nation, and comes back to Pittsburgh after serving as the Chief of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Operations Response Unit at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Previous to joining the bureau in 1990, he was a Pittsburgh paramedic and crew chief for five years. He is a 1984 graduate of Duquesne University and native of Forest Hills, and is a current life member of the Forest Hills Volunteer Fire Department.

"Wendell Hissrich brings back to Pittsburgh not only a close knowledge of our city, but experience working with agencies across the country to keep our nation safe. Both Pittsburgh's residents and its public safety personnel are lucky to welcome him back," Mayor Peduto said.

Mr. Hissrich is moving back to Pittsburgh from Alexandria, Va., and is set to begin work on January 11. As Public Safety Director he will oversee the city's Office of Emergency Management; the Police, Fire, Emergency Medical Services, and Animal Control bureaus; and related community outreach programs.

As Chief of the WMD Operations Response Unit Mr. Hissrich oversaw 56 FBI field offices with a focus on WMD response, investigations and task force operations. Prior to that position he was a supervisory special agent (SSA) in the FBI's Counterterrorism Division for two years; a SSA in the Laboratory Division's Hazardous Materials Response Unit for nine years; a SSA coordinating a fugitive/violent crimes response unit with personnel from 15 law enforcement agencies in Toledo and Cleveland for seven years; and was a special agent in the Los Angeles Division on the public corruption and drug investigations squad, and violent crimes and major offenders squad.

Mr. Hissrich has managed federal, state and local public safety agency coordination on events including Pope Francis's visit this summer to Philadelphia; letters laced with Ricin sent to President Obama and members of Congress in 2013; an Ebola case at a Dallas hospital; the discovery of smallpox and other biological agents at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md .; a train derailment resulting in the release of chlorine gas in Graniteville, S.C .; and hazardous response planning for the 2006 MLB All-Star Game at PNC Park, Super Bowls, presidential inaugurations and other large events.

His nomination is subject to approval by City Council and his salary is $112,500.

He will replace former Public Safety Director Stephen A. Bucar, who left in September to become Deputy Commissioner of Staff with the Pennsylvania State Police.

Acting Public Safety Director Michael Huss will return to his role as assistant director of the department.


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