To get a better context of the environment new Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay recently entered, it would be helpful to know each of the following things:
1. Out of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country, the Pittsburgh metropolitan area is the 2nd Whitest.
2. There were 66 homicides in the city in 2014, the most in six years.
3. In the last five years, there have been at least three nationally recognized stories involving the Pittsburgh police and an interaction with a Black male.
A) In 2010, three plainclothes officers brutally beat Jordan Miles, a teen who was walking to his grandmother's house. The officers claimed they identified themselves as police, and beat Miles only after he ran and attempted to assault one of them. In 2014, a jury awarded Miles a $119,000 settlement.
B) In 2012, Leon Ford was stopped while driving by police officers who thought he was another person. When the officers attempted to remove him from the car, it shifted in gear. The officers shot into the car. Ford was charged with two felony counts of aggravated assault, recklessly endangering, resisting arrest and escape.
Also, as a result of the shooting, Ford is now paralyzed.
C) In 2013, Dennis Henderson — a school teacher — was arrested after leaving a community activism meeting. His crime? While standing near his car talking to another person, a cop sped by so closely that Henderson had to press against his car to avoid getting hit. Henderson screamed "Wow!" Or, perhaps, "Whoa! Slow down!"
The cop did a u-turn, got out of his car, argued with Henderson, and eventually arrested him.
4. The chief McLay replaced, Nate Harper, is Black. Harper is also currently in a federal prison for conspiracy to commit theft from a federally funded program, and failure to file tax returns.
Again, Harper was the chief of the motherfucking police for seven years. And he is in prison right now.
Anyway, this is the world McLay entered. Since Pittsburgh doesn't exist in a vacuum, McLay is also aware of the national tension and lack of trust between many community members and the police.
Immediately after taking the job, he addressed that tension and also pledged to work with the community to help restore trust. And, because "working with the community" to "help restore trust" — two mind-blowingly simple concepts — also means that certain racial disparities need to be addressed, he addressed them. He even allowed himself to be photographed while holding a sign saying "I resolve to challenge racism at work. #endwhitesilence" Another mind-blowingly simple concept. Seriously, saying "You know, since I'm the chief of police, I should attempt to end certain standards and practices that might have a negative effect on our ability to do our jobs" is like saying "You know, since I'm married and shit, I should stop trying to fuck my wife's friends."
No one in their right mind could possibly be pissed about any of that.
From police union head Howard McQuillan:
"The chief is calling us racists. He believes the Pittsburgh Police Department is racist. This has angered a lot of officers."
Yesterday, Chief McLay replied to the police with one the best "Sorry not sorry" statements I've ever seen.
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.
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.
I saw no indictment of police or anyone else in this sign, but I do apologize to any of you who felt I was not supporting you; that was not my intent.
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.
For those needing an abridged summary of McLay's full statement, I've condensed it to 12 words.
"Hit dogs holler. Get over yourselves or get left the fuck behind."