By Rebekah Devorak | Opinions Editor
With reports of police brutality happening all across the country, just know that Pittsburgh isn’t immune to having its own problems, as well.
Melissa Adamson, a part-time police officer with the McKeesport Police Department, was fired on Sept. 27 after using a racial slur on social media. Adamson posted a selfie on Snapchat while in uniform with the caption, “I’m the law today n—a.”
Although it is unclear how her superiors became aware of the photo ,as it was taken at an earlier point in time and circulated on her first day of the job, she was immediately relieved of her duties once it was discovered. Adamson was training to become a probation officer and had only been hired weeks before.
McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said in a statement on the city’s Facebook page that Adamson’s post “displays a degree of conduct and character that is far different from what I would expect from an officer in this city.” He went on to say that her behavior was “absolutely unacceptable” and “will not be tolerated in the City of McKeesport.”
While to some this may have seemed like a harmless act, instances like these are why we have such appalling issues going on between police and the public they serve today. Adamson herself said in an interview that she realized it was a “stupid mistake” and urged people to believe that she doesn’t have “a racist bone in [her] body.”
Police officers should be held to the highest standards of responsibility when they are inducted into the force. Their jobs are incredibly important. Police officers are not only supposed to protect and serve each person in their city equally, but they are supposed to exercise the great amount of power that they have as figures in society, both fairly and mindfully. This goes for any situation – large, small, online or in-person.
Genuine respect for other human life is something that those serving as officers of the law cannot afford to lose. It shouldn’t even be a question. According to the United States Census Bureau, 31.9 percent of McKeesport is black. The fact that Adamson used a racial slur that clearly degraded over one third of the community she works with and offended countless others reveals the obvious lack of respect she had for her job.
Adamson said in an interview with WTAE that she does not want this situation to affect how she does her job in the future. Unfortunately, having a mindset that allows for the kind of conduct she has displayed thus far means that the way she performs her duties under the law is already being impacted. How is the public supposed to feel safe and justly protected when an officer takes matters such as racism so lightly?
Perhaps this highlights a flaw in the system in regard to what kind of people are hired as cops, or perhaps this exposes the need for better training in how to treat and engage the community in a manner that esteems all types of people.
The McKeesport Police Department deserves praise for treating Adamson’s scenario seriously, rather than just sweeping it under the rug as a young person’s foolish mistake. The department’s mission statement, listed on its website, says that the force “actively pursues the cooperation of every resident in an effort to create a police/community partnership sensitive to the multitude of cultures that make up the human fabric of our community.”
Adamson’s behavior crossed the boundary of what McKeesport deemed acceptable in its pursuit for harmony, and it’s refreshing to see the department act so swiftly and significantly in its decision.
Adamson might not have thought her Snapchat would have such a profound impact, but it does. If the work that police officers are doing does not function to bring people of all cultures closer together in understanding, then it is essentially the same as just pushing everyone further apart.