Pittsburgh police chief to quit after union's 'no confidence' vote

Pittsburgh Chief of Police Cameron McLay speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
By Laila Kearney

By Laila Kearney

(Reuters) - A Pennsylvania police chief, who angered some of his department's rank-and-file members by speaking out in uniform at the Democratic National Convention in support of criminal justice reforms, announced his resignation on Friday.

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay said he would step down on Tuesday, weeks after the union representing his department's active and retired officers held a vote of "no confidence" in him.

Mayor Bill Peduto appointed McLay in September 2014 to head the Pittsburgh police force and work on improving relations between the department and the city's many minority residents.

"At this point, I earnestly believe that I have accomplished all that I am able to do," McLay said in a statement. "Accordingly, I have decided to step aside to pursue other options."

In speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in late July, McLay called for reforms of the criminal justice system to bring about greater fairness in policing across the country.

"Without question, the criminal justice system has had a disparate impact on our communities of color," McLay said in his speech. "We can respect and support our police officers while at the same time pushing for these important criminal justice reforms."

Pittsburgh is one of many big U.S. cities, including New York and Chicago, that have instituted law enforcement reforms in recent years after a series of high-profile police killings of black men, many of whom were unarmed.

The speech riled some of his department's officers and prompted the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board to release a special report that concluded that McLay had acted improperly, especially by appearing at the convention in uniform.

At the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, in July and also appearing in uniform, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke denounced the Black Lives Matter movement in an address and praised Donald Trump's stance on law and order.

In September, the union representing the Pittsburgh's 900 police officers and 900 retired officers cast a majority "no confidence" vote on McLay's ability to lead the department.

McLay said shortly after the vote that the union's disapproval was the natural outcome of officers pushing back against reforms he had put into place.

The vote reflected various concerns about McLay's leadership and was not solely linked to his convention appearance, said James Glick, vice president of the Pittsburgh police union.

The union wished the best for McLay and supported the appointment of Scott Schubert, who will serve as acting chief during the search for a permanent replacement, Glick said.

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Tom Brown)