Wednesday night, Mayor Bill Peduto spoke out about repairing relationships between police and the black community during an appearance on “The O’Reilly Factor” television program.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Peduto stated that Pittsburgh officials, including the police chief, find themselves walking a fine line while they try to repair the relationship between officers who have been demoralized by controversy and members of the black community.
The broadcast came only a week after Police Chief Cameron McLay was photographed holding a sign stating, “I resolve to challenge racism @work. #end white silence.” The action spurred controversy and was met by both disapproval from Pittsburgh Police Union President Howard McQuillan and words of praise from supporters of the police chief.
Appearing only five minutes on the show, Peduto emphasized his goal of getting the community to work with police officers to repair tattered and strained relationships.
“There’s been a past history that has taken it to levels that have both demoralized the rank-and-file and at the same time broken the communication between our black community and our police force, so we’re trying to run both tracks at the same time,” he said. “It’s sort of difficult, but the nice thing about Pittsburgh is it is a small enough city with only 900 officers that you can work on it on an individual basis.”
During the program, the mayor said, “Chief McLay took a risk and if it”s taken the wrong way, it could actually….” Then, host O’Reilly cut him off.
O’Reilly proceeded to ask the mayor, “Was it really wise for the Police Chief of Pittsburgh to do that?” emphasizing the recent events in Missouri and New York City that have triggered conflict between residents and officers across the nation.
“I would argue the other way,” Peduto said. “I actually think that right now what’s needed is open, honest dialogue. I don’t know of one problem that any of us face, either personally or systematic problems, that isn’t addressed by first having an open and honest dialogue.”
O’Reilly said he had invited the chief onto his show, but the mayor appeared in his place.
Howard McQuillan, in an email obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, said McLay’s actions raised “serious concerns…By Mayor Bill 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!”
Outgoing Deputy Police Chief Paul Donaldson said earlier this week that he supported the chief’s actions. “I agree with the chief,” he said. “I agree that red lives matter, yellow lives matter, white lives matter and police officers’ lives matter. I concur with him on the message that he was trying to send.”
McLay sent a letter to officers apologizing “if any of my PBP family was offended,” adding “I saw no indictment of police or anyone else in this sign.”