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Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay drew the ire of his city’s police union after he posted with a sign calling for an end to racism. While cops on his force took the photo as an accusation, Chief McLay responded to his critics in a letter explaining carefully the nuances of race and police work.

On New Year’s Eve, Chief McLay entered a coffee shop where he encountered members of the What’s Up?! Pittsburgh group during First Night festivities in the city. After sitting with the group and discussing ways to counter racism, the activists asked Chief McLay to hold the sign that read, “I Resolve To Challenge Racism At Work. #EndWhiteSilence.”

The response from Fraternal Order of Police President Howard McQuillan was less than favorable. Speaking on behalf of the union, Officer McQuillan to offense to the photo and spoke with a local news outlet about the act raised “serious concerns” and could disrupt officer morale.

Although Chief McLay didn’t say anything about his force in the photo display, the union chief was intent on seeing things that way. However, Chief McLay responded to the force about the letter, and bravely addressed the fact that racial disparities are present in the city and does have an effect on how police are seen by communities of color.

From the letter as published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

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.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto was supportive of Chief McLay’s photo that he shared it on his Facebook wall. Mayor Peduto also shot down the union’s accusations of the chief causing dissent in the ranks.

Photo: Twitter/What’s Up?! Pittsburgh