After more than 21 years in public safety, Sheldon Williams said he had little reaction to the news that the Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Political recommendations are nothing new, he said, and don’t always carry a lot of weight for union members.
Williams was a detective and SWAT member for the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, as well as a firefighter and paramedic. He's currently the associate administrative pastor at Allegheny Center Alliance Church.
“I’ll make my decision on where my vote goes based on my personal belief of which candidate best supports what I envision or what I desire out of a candidate,” he said.
Last week, the National FOP endorsed Trump, prompting chapters around the country to follow suit. In Philadelphia, Guardian League Civic, a group representing black officers, is speaking out against the decision, saying Trump does not reflect their values.
Pittsburgh has no such law enforcement group, although Williams did say many local black officers are members of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
Several have objected to the presidential endorsement through social media, he said, but they have internal issues to wrangle with first.
“If you observe any neutrality or lack of response to it, that (doesn't mean) people aren’t concerned,” he said. “It just doesn’t raise the level like the vote of no-confidence by the Pittsburgh police officers for the police chief.”
Pittsburgh officers voted that they have no confidence in Police Chief Cameron McLay earlier this month, citing policy clashes for forced overtime, off-duty work and other contract issues. The vote doesn’t trigger any legal action and Mayor Bill Peduto, who has said repeatedly that he has “full confidence” in McLay.
An internal political action committee of the FOP compiles information about policies and makes their recommendation based on how well a candidate aligns with the mission and needs of the order, according to Williams.
Most officers don't follow endorsements, he said. They do their own research.
“People can dismiss that, just like junk mail coming in the mailbox,” Williams said. “It’s just information; you can choose to accept it, refute it and move on.”
Williams said issues such as contract negotiations and residency requirements are a bigger concern for Pittsburgh FOP members regarding their relationship with the union.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.