A White police officer joined in the effort for equality and justice and thankfully his actions have given us a refreshing reminder that good cops exist. During Pittsburgh’s First Night celebration on New Year’s Eve, Police Chief Cameron McLay was photographed holding a poster that read: “I resolve to challenge racism @ work. #EndWhiteSilence.”
The photo was a part of Fight Back Pittsburgh‘s parade (also on First Night)and supported the #BlackLivesMatters movement. It was uploaded online by What’s Up?! Pittsburgh. Like many, we found McLay’s participation very upstanding and the photo also caught the eye of mayor Bill Peduto, who shared it on Facebook.
As it went viral, a limited few such as the city’s Fraternal Order of Police Howard McQuillan criticized it for implying the entire police department was racist. McLay has since defended himself in an email released to the media:
“I was hired by [Peduto] to restore the legitimacy of the police department. I did not seek these young activists out. I was stopping for coffee at First Night. Their message is not anti-anybody. It is simply a call for awareness. The photo was a great spontaneous moment in time. Please join the dialogue for community healing.”
McQuillian spoke to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on behalf of offended officers and said, “The chief is calling us racists. He believes the Pittsburgh Police Department is racist. This has angered a lot of officers.” He added, “By Mayor Peduto labeling us ‘corrupt and mediocre’ and now our current Chief insinuating that we are now racist, merely by the color of our skin and the nature of our profession, I say enough is enough!” Peduto viewed the picture as a “great way to begin the new year” and has thankfully been supportive of McLay’s stance.
Also written in the mindful officer’s letter:
“To me the term ‘white silence’ simply means that we must be willing to speak up to address issues of racial injustice, poverty, etc.,” he said, the news station writes. “In my heart, I believe we all must come together as [a] community to address real world problems, and I am willing to be a voice to bring community together.
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’s statement reflected his ultimate mission as a Chief to bridge any racial bias that exists in the Pittsburgh community. The city has had its own cases of unarmed Black people shot and dying at the hands of cops, and he sees hoopla of the photo as an opportunity to encourage more open discussions on police brutality.