Police union upset over Pride decals on vehicles

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh police vehicles are showing their pride, but the police union isn’t happy about it.

There are rainbow decals on police vehicles that say, “Pittsburgh Police Supports Pride 2017.”

According to a news release from the police spokesperson, the decals are part of an initiative to acknowledge special occasions for the department and the communities it serves. Pride is one of nine events selected.

The others are:

  • Police Memorial Week
  • Special Olympics
  • Cancer Awareness
  • Domestic Violence Awareness
  • Veterans Day
  • Black History Month
  • St. Patrick's Day
  • Autism Awareness

Bob Schwartzwelder, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, called the decals “outrageous.”

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“It’s biased,” he said. “Police are supposed to be neutral law enforcers, not supporters of any cause. This is an extremely slippery slope. Furthermore, does this decal indicate the Pittsburgh police only support the Pride cause to the exclusion of other causes? This is an official government police vehicle, not a supporter of causes advertisement.”

According to Schwartzwelder, the decals are required on all police cars.

According to the release from the police spokesperson, however, only five to six police vehicles in each of the city's six zones would have the community support decals.

"It's very disheartening to hear the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) went to the media about their displeasure in supporting Pride and other events that help build stronger partnerships with the community we are entrusted to serve and protect," said Chief Scott Schubert. "It's extremely disappointing that the FOP would attempt to strain relations with the community when the PBP (Pittsburgh Bureau of Police) is doing everything in our power to improve those relationships. The FOP is sending a message that has the potential to do reprehensible harm to progress we've made to ensure there is inclusion with all members of the community."

Schubert said the decals were discussed and agreed upon by the chiefs and command staff a month ago. He said other police agencies across the country use community support decals as a way to say thank you to the community.

"Doesn't do anything to repair relationships and bring people together," said Gary Van Horn with the Delta Foundation. "I'm concerned at why he'd specifically do it for this one. At the end of the day, the police are to protect and serve all community member in the city of Pittsburgh."

"When radicalized groups request their stickers, I certainly hope the city is prepared to handle the content-based censorship litigation while they believe they are improving community relations," Schwartzwelder said. "Professional police work improves community relations, not decals on police vehicles."

Pridefest is from noon to 5 p.m. June 10 and from 1 to 7 p.m. June 11.