Former Pittsburgh Officer Urges Productive Community Dialogue Following Shootings

Jul 8, 2016

After five police officers were killed in Dallas Thursday night and two black males were fatally shot by police in Louisana and Minnesota, former Pittsburgh police officer and Citizen Police Review Board member Sheldon Williams said communities need to engage in productive dialogue about these types of situations.

“When people have disagreement, we need to go through the right channels to bring light to the issues of disagreement.”

Williams, who was part of a 90.5 WESA panel discussion on police-community relations in 2014, noted that much of the anger from these incidents is fueled by misunderstanding of the processes involved. 

Public outcry over cases like Philando Castile and Alton Sterling is justified, Williams added, but should lead to action and positive change, not additional violence.

“People have a right to be angry about things, but there’s a proper way to manage that anger.”

While “use of force” is often cited as a significant complaint of police by African American communities, Williams believes discourtesy and rudeness is actually the main source of contention.

“The disrespect continues and that’s what keeps building on these building blocks that furthers frustration, that leads to anger and people begin to react,” he said.

Communities need to engage in dialogue by looking at why these kinds of incidents are so prevalent, Williams explained. Rather than grouping all these shootings into the same narrative, he suggested communities look at elements of the situations and work to resolve them internally.

“What can we do just past talking to bring forth some sort of help and some sort of change to the situation?”

Mayor Bill Peduto has called for a community-wide police summit next week to address issues of fear, hate and violence.

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