The most recent graduation class from the Pittsburgh Police Academy totaled 34—33 Whites and only one Black. All day long the talk shows were consumed with the topic of what difference does it make? On Friday evening a radio host piggybacked the same attitude the others did by emphatically stating “I don’t care,” and then he simplified the complex issue by stating the obvious that if you call 9-1-1 you don’t care if a Black, White, male or female responds. I was so upset with the negative attitude that I called, but was put on hold for 22 minutes and then I was informed they had a guest, Councilman Rev. Rickey Burgess.
The I don’t care attitude was prevalent when professional sports was all White, coaches were all White, and there were no Black educators. We were denied entrance to the skill trade unions, there were no Black assistant district attorneys, no Black Allegheny County common pleas judges, and the fire department was 100 percent White.
Once colored police were hired they had to wash walls in the police station, could not be a motorcycle officer, were denied promotions, and when the situation required a colored person to enter the police station males were addressed as Sambo, Snowflake, Buckwheat, Slick, George and others out of their names. The females were called Caledonia, Sapphire, Suzy Mae, and so on, but the attitude failed to change. They did not care.
The mayor of Pittsburgh and too many others totally failed to understand the concerns about the lack of Blacks in certain positions. Their terse and popular response was: “I will not lower the qualifications.” Not one person I know ever suggested the qualifications be lowered, because we have witnessed the result of limited qualifications in the Pennsylvania budget and the Pittsburgh Pension Plan.
If you cared you would investigate how many Blacks and women were in the last 160 applicants. Did they fail the written test, oral test, performance test, polygraph, evaluation by the command staff? An extremely important question is at what level and who knows whether the applicants are Black or White?
It is an established fact that those Blacks, who generally would qualify for the police, don’t want to be police, and those who don’t have the college credits are not qualified.
I worked for the city of Pittsburgh and had an opportunity to be involved in developing what we deemed a police profile, it was and is extremely difficult. For example a polygraph can’t provide you with pertinent information on whether a person is a racist, because most racists truly don’t believe their actions are racist, they simply believe their attitudes about people different from them is a fact. The smallest percentage of police officers truly aspire to be professional law enforcement officers, the next largest percent seeks steady employment, but the most dangerous percentage are the rogue cops who are power drunk and recognize the fact that they have the power to arrest, incarcerate and even kill and go unpunished.
To those of you who state you don’t care, you should care.
I know there are those who still believe Blacks expect to be given something because we are Black. All we ask is to be provided with the same opportunities other Americans are provided. Is that really too much to expect?
These are two out of a multitude of experiences in my lifetime. While in the army during the Korean conflict, stationed in Kentucky, I was informed that although I was an American soldier and the restaurant was on federal land I could not be served. I, in conjunction with two White detectives, formed the first countywide narcotics squad in the history of Allegheny County. I was constantly asked to present my identification. Not one time were my partners ever questioned.
In spite of some of the encounters in my personal life I still do not believe discrimination is under every rock, but those of you who do not care should look in the mirror.
Kingsley Association still needs you.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum Page.)