On New Years Eve, Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay held up a poster handed to him by activists that stated, “I resolve to challenge racism @ work #EndWhiteSilence.”
Within days, the local Fraternal Order of Police President, Howard McQuillan, was complaining to a local news station, saying, “The chief is calling us racists. He believes the Pittsburgh Police Department is racist. This has angered a lot of officers.”
The poster was carried by members of What’s Up?! Pittsburgh, a group promoting racial justice “in 2015 and beyond” during the city’s New Year’s Eve First Night celebrations. The group tweeted the picture of Chief Cameron McLay, who smiled as he held their placard.
While McLay never called anyone a racist, and only held up a sign that resolved to challenge racism at work, the local police union President reacted as if Chief McLay had actually called officers racist. Despite McQuillan’s defensive overreaction – indicating that the department may in fact harbor racists – McLay nonetheless apologized to anyone in his department who may have been offended, saying:
“I was hired 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 dialogue for community healing.
To me, the term ‘white silence’ simply means that we must be willing to speak up to address issues of racial injustice, poverty, etc. In my heart, I believe we all must come together as community to address real world problems; and I am willing to be a voice to bring community together.”
On Facebook, McLay added:
“The reality of US policing is that our enforcement efforts have a disparate impact on communities of colour. 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 colour. We, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, need to acknowledge how this reality feels to those impacted communities.
In a similar incident showcasing a basic lack of situational awareness, Police Benevolent Association chief Patrick Lynch called New York City a “hostile anti-police environment in the city,” after Mayor Bill de Blasio showed sympathy for the protestors nationwide seeking police reform. De Blasio stated that the Eric Garner grand jury decision was something “many in our city did not want” and mentioned that he and his wife had talked to his own half-black son Dante “about the dangers that he may face,” ostensibly from police. De Blasio also criticized some of the NYPD’s tactics during his 2013 campaign, including the “stop-and-frisk” policy that has been led to the harassment of minorities in the city.
In retaliation, at the funeral of one of the policemen murdered in an ambush last month by a man looking to kill NYPD officers, many of the uniformed police officers assembled outside the church showed their disdain for Mayor de Blasio by turning their backs when he began his eulogy. Now, NYPD officers are simply refusing to arrest or ticket people for minor offenses – arresting people “only when they have to,” and leading to a 94 percent dropoff in such arrests, and a 66% decrease in overall arrests.
On New Year’s Day, comedian Chris Rock tweeted “#NYPD says they are only making arrests now when “absolutely necessary” Admitting arrests are over 80% unnecessary. #NYPDslowdown.”
After these police union tantrums, perhaps cities will start realizing that instead of generating revenue with arrest quotas and tickets, they can replenish the city coffers by eliminating the salaries of unnecessary officers who are employed merely to write tickets.