Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay posed for a photo holding a sign that reads “I resolve to challenge racism @ work #EndWhiteSilence,” and ruffled the feathers of the city’s police union president. In an email response to the photo, Officer Howard McQuillan wrote to McLay that his “actions raise serious concerns.”
“The chief is calling us racists,” Officer Howard McQuillan told local new station KDKA-TV. “He believes the Pittsburgh Police Department is racist. This has angered a lot of officers.”
Responding to his critics, McLay wrote back a lengthy defense of the photo. Clarifying that it was a sign made by a local activist group, he stood by the message he portrayed while apologizing to anyone he might have offended. He also noted the racial disparities involved in the U.S. law enforcement system.
Read an excerpt from his response below:
The reality of U.S. policing is that our enforcement efforts have a disparate impact on communities of color. This is a statistical fact. You know, as well as I, the social factors driving this reality. The gross disparity in wealth and opportunity is evident in our city. Frustration and disorder are certain to follow. The predominant patterns of our city’s increased violence involves black victims as well as actors. If we are to address this violence, we must work together with our communities of color.
We, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, need to acknowledge how this reality feels to those impacted communities. Crime and disorder take us to the disadvantaged communities, which are predominantly those of color. The disparities in police arrest and incarceration rates that follow are not by design, but they can feel that way to some people in those communities.
I know, because I have been there too. My own street drug enforcement efforts were well intended but had an impact I would not have consciously chosen. In retrospect, we should have been far more engaged with those in the communities where we were doing our high-impact, zero tolerance type policing; to obtain the consent of those we were policing.
Read Chief McLay’s full response here.