The police chief of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, apologized last week after a photograph of him holding an anti-racism sign was shared on Twitter.
Chief Cameron McLay sent a mass email to the city's entire police bureau on Jan. 2, explaining the circumstances behind the photo and apologizing for causing any offense.
"If any of my [Pittsburgh police] family was offended, I apologize. You are very important to me and I would never hurt you purposefully," McLay wrote.
The chief said he had run into a group of activists while at a coffee shop and posed for the picture after speaking with them "about how implicit, or unconscious bias results in misunderstanding on all sides, and how the need is for dialogue to clear up misunderstanding."
"The sign indicated my willingness to challenge racial problems in the workplace," he wrote. "I am so committed. If there are problems in the [Pittsburg police] related to racial injustice, I will take action to fix them."
The photo of McLay had drawn criticism from the president of the union representing city police who said it insinuated that officers were racist, Pittsburgh's WTAE reported.
McLay insisted he was making no such insinuation in posing with the sign: "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," he said.
"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 wrote. "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."
McLay's email came after the police chief of Nashville, Tennessee, sent out a city-wide email on Dec. 26 on the subject of race relations after protests against police killings spread across the U.S.
Chief Steve Anderson shared an email he had received from a member of the public who had complained that Nashville police had not done more to stop protests in the city.
"I have a son who I have raised to respect police officers and other authority figures, but if he comes to me today and asks 'Why are the police allowing this?' I wouldn't have a good answer," the person wrote.
As part of a lengthy and nuanced response, Anderson wrote:
"It is somewhat perplexing when children are injected into the conversation as an attempt to bolster a position or as an attempt to thwart the position of another. While this is not the type of conversation I ordinarily engage in, here are some thoughts you may find useful as you talk with your son.
First, it is laudable that you are teaching your son respect for the police and other authority figures. However, a better lesson might be that it is the government the police serve that should be respected. The police are merely a representative of a government formed by the people for the people—for all people. Being respectful of the government would mean being respectful of all persons, no matter what their views.
Later, it might be good to point out that the government needs to be, and is, somewhat flexible, especially in situations where there are minor violations of law. A government that had zero tolerance for even minor infractions would prove unworkable in short order.
You can read the full text of Chief Anderson's email here, while Chief McLay's email is available here.
David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.
Contact David Mack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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