Pittsburgh’s top cop is taking heat - as well as praise - for being photographed holding up a sign that reads: “I resolve to challenge racism @ work. #EndWhiteSilence.”
Police Chief Cameron McLay held up the sign after chatting with anti-police brutality protesters on New Year's Eve, and denies that by doing so, he was implying that his rank and file officers are racist.
“The sign indicated my willingness to challenge racial problems in the workplace,” McLay told FoxNews.com in an e-mail. “I saw no indictment of police or anyone else in this sign.”
But with relations between police and particularly African-American citizens strained around the country in the wake of two racially-charged incidents, as well as the execution of a pair of NYPD cops, police took offense at the message.
“Our current Chief of Police [is] insinuating that we are now racist, merely by the color of our skin and the nature of our profession," said Fraternal Order of Police President Howard McQuillan. "I say enough is enough!”
McLay said it all began when he decided to make a stop in a coffee shop at the city’s “First Night” New Year’s Eve celebration. A group of people then approached him and asked to take a picture of him holding a sign, according to McLay. A protest group called “Fight Back Pittsburgh” posted the picture on their Facebook page which said, “Here’s a New Years resolution we can get behind. Pittsburgh’s Police chief McLay resolves to challenge racism at work. We’re going to hold you to that Chief.”
The photo was originally published by “WWHAT’S UP?! Pittsburgh,” a group that organized a rally at the New Years parade where group members were seen holding similar signs.
McLay's action drew support from his boss, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.
“I think it was the right thing to do," Peduto told Pittsburgh’s Action News 4. "What he’s basically saying is there is not a perceived problem, there is a problem. It’s not only within Pittsburgh, it’s across this country.”
McLay did not disavow holding up the sign, but offered his rank and file an olive branch.
“It appears my having been photographed with a sign supporting racial justice at work and ‘white silence’ has offended some. If any of my PBP (Pittsburgh Bureau of Police) family was offended, I apologize,” McLay said.