Pittsburgh, Pa., police union leaders have accused their department’s chief of calling them racist because he held a sign that vows to challenge racism by ending White silence, MSNBC reports.
The issue arose after Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay (pictured) was photographed at the city’s New Year’s Eve parade holding the sign: “I resolve to challenge racism @ work #EndWhiteSilence,” the report says.
Howard McQuillan, president of the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, promptly accused McLay of pandering to the community at the expense of the police community, the report says.
“The chief is calling us racists,” he told KDKA. “He believes the Pittsburgh Police Department is racist. This has angered a lot of officers.”
The battle comes as police union leaders in New York City are in a standoff with Mayor Bill de Blasio over contract negotiations and after he expressed empathy with communities of color and protesters after the death of Eric Garner. Garner, 43, was an unarmed Black man who died in a chokehold at the hands of NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo. Pantaleo tried to arrest him on charges of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes on a sidewalk in Staten Island.
Garner’s death and the officer’s subsequent clearance by a grand jury—among other high-profile incidents around the nation—have sparked ongoing protests against police violence in the Black community.
Amid widening fissures between police and de Blasio, a lone killer assassinated two NYPD officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, last month as they sat in their squad cars on a Brooklyn street. During funeral services for both officers, cops turned their backs on de Blasio as he delivered remarks.
But McLay stood his ground, firing off a letter Friday to the rank and file. He explained that during the parade, he stopped at a coffee shop, where he encountered a group of activists and spoke with them “about how implicit, or unconscious bias results in misunderstanding on all sides, and how the need is for dialogue to clear up misunderstanding,” the report says.
Further, he asked officers to approach their jobs mindfully, with a continued motivation to protect and serve, and he said the department would provide further training on issues of racial sensitivity, the report says.
“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,” McLay added.