July 26, 2016
Last Thursday, Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay did something extraordinary at St. James AME Church. Speaking before a gathering of faith leaders we assembled, Chief McLay spoke with the honesty and bluntness that has characterized his nearly two-year stint in Pittsburgh:
“If police and community are going to come together, if we’re going to be genuine partners in making each other safe, one of the things we’re going to have to recognize is we have a horrible, undesirable, unjust shared history,”Chief McLay said. “I recognize the fact that in American policing — in American society — we the police as an entity have been the enforcement arm of unjust policies that have caused harm to our communities of color.”
He continued: “As chief of police, I apologize for the police role in our bad, shared history. I apologize for what you went through. I apologize for the impact that some of the aspects of the war on drugs had on communities we serve,” he said as long, sustained applause erupted around him. In a remarkable six-minute speech, Chief McLay sketched out the structural problem of modern policing and the root of community suspicion about police.