Pittsburgh police chief’s call to ‘challenge racism’ angers union head: ‘He’s insinuating we’re racist!’
Pittsburgh’s Chief of Police is coming under fire from his own rank-and-file for allowing himself to be photographed with a sign critical of workplace racism, Action News 4 reports.
Chief Cameron McLay was photographed holding a sign that read, “I resolve to challenge racism @ work. #EndWhiteSilence”:
The photograph was shared by many, including Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who told Action News 4 that “I think it was the right thing to do. What he’s basically saying is there is not a perceived problem, there is a problem. It’s not only within Pittsburgh, it’s across this county.”
In an email to the entire police department, McLay wrote that “[i]t appears my having been photographed with a sign supporting racial justice at work and [opposing] ‘white silence’ has offended some. If any of my PBP [Pittsburgh Bureau of Police] family was offended, I apologize. You are very important to me and I would never hurt you purposefully.”
McLay explained that he met up with representatives of WHAT’S UP?! Pittsburgh on News Years Eve, and “[w]e spoke for a few minutes about how implicit or unconscious bias results in misunderstanding on all sides, and how the need is for dialogue to clear up misunderstanding. They asked for me to take a picture holding a sign.”
“The sign indicated my willingness to challenge racial problems in the workplace. I am so committed. If there are problems in the PBP related to racial injustice, I will take action to fix them. Please beware also, race impacts how we view one another, and unconscious bias applies to how we deal with the public. It can also impact how we judge one another; I intend we will confront both through training.”
Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police President Howard McQuillan, however, understood the sign and its implication very differently.
“[O]ur current Chief of Police [is] insinuating that we are now racist, merely by the color of our skin and the nature of our profession. I say enough is enough!” he wrote.
McQuillan then accused Chief McLay of “pandering to the community at the expense of the police community,” saying that the photograph “has restarted the rebuilding of a wall between the Chief’s Office and the rank and file, that we have been working tirelessly to tear down for some time now. We need to repair the department’s morale, then work our way outward to the community.”
He also suggested that McLay — who recently disciplined two Pittsburgh officers for posts made on social media — was a hypocrite. “I certainly respect your personal feelings and most importantly, freedom of speech,” he wrote, but “your actions raise serious concerns for me as the President of FOP Lodge #1 and our membership.”