Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay on New Year’s Eve, holding a sign offered by the local activist group What’s Up?! Pittsburgh. The photo was widely circulated on social media. What’s Up?! Pittsburgh
City police union president objects to chief’s appearance in social media and effect on officer morale
By Michael A. Fuoco
Jan 4, 2015 Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto was at home with his girlfriend on New Year’s Eve when he glanced at his smartphone and saw a Facebook posting of a photograph of Police Chief Cameron McLay holding a sign reading “I resolve to challenge racism @ work. # end white silence.”
“I thought, ‘What a great way to begin the new year,’ ” the mayor said, and he showed his girlfriend the photo. It had been taken by activists from What’s Up?! Pittsburgh, who approached the chief in a coffee shop during the city’s First Night festivities and asked him pose with their sign.
So pleased was Mayor Peduto with his new police chief’s action that he quickly posted the photograph on his own Facebook account, adding his support to restoring trust between the police bureau and the communities it serves, a stated goal of Chief McLay.
“I thought there was very little chance for someone to say this was the wrong message to send,” Mr. Peduto recounted Saturday.
He was wrong.
The photo, which continues to be shared on social media, has drawn cheers from numerous groups and individuals, but Fraternal Order of Police President Howard McQuillan isn’t among them.
KDKA-TV quoted him Friday as saying the photo amounted to the chief labeling the police force as racist. And in an email to the chief, obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Officer McQuillan wrote that the chief’s actions raised “serious concerns. … 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!”
Moreover, Officer McQuillan accused the chief of violating the bureau’s social media policy and of being “hypocritical” for disciplining two officers who violated it.
In response, Chief McLay sent an email to the entire bureau Friday with the subject line “Race and Police” in which he apologized “if any of my PBP family was offended,” adding “I saw no indictment of police or anyone else in this sign.”