Pa. state troopers demand apology from Wolf over Juneteenth letter to state employees | Wednesday Morning Coffee

May 19, 2021 7:12 am

Pa. State Police SUV (Pa. State Police Facebook Page

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

The head of the union that represents Pennsylvania’s State Police troopers is demanding an apology from Gov. Tom Wolf over a Juneteenth-themed letter the Democratic governor sent to all state employees, arguing that it insulted his officers.

At issue is language that Wolf included in his letter last week, noting that “Juneteenth is a celebration of the progress we have made as a nation towards equality and justice for all. Sadly, the continued death of African Americans at the hands of police … are painful reminders that racism and intolerance are still with us today.”

The state observes Juneteenth, which falls on June 19, as a state holiday. It commemorates the emancipation of the last enslaved people in the United States.

In an op-Ed sent to news organizations, including the Capital-StarDavid Kennedy, the president of the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, blasted Wolf for “[pushing] a false narrative that police are racist murderers,” and called it the “worst kind of political pandering. He added that “it only serves to further divide our nation at the expense of officers who already work incredibly dangerous jobs.”

He added that the State Police support the Juneteenth holiday.

Kennedy said Wolf’s comments were particularly insulting because they came amid National Police Week, which commemorates fallen officers. The union boss concluded by saying that Wolf “[owed] all law enforcement officers, troopers and their loved ones an apology. A real apology.”

Gov. Tom Wolf gives the 2021-2022 budget address virtually (Capital-Star Screen Capture).

Speaking to WHTM-TV in HarrisburgWolf said his comment wasn’t directed at the State Police, and that he was stating a fact. And, based on a raft of studies, he has the data on his side.

In a 2020 study, researchers at Harvard University concluded that Black Americans were 3.23 times more likely than white Americans to be killed by police. Researchers examined 5,494 police-related deaths in the U.S. between 2013 and 2017 to reach their conclusions.

The study also found that rates “of deadly police encounters were higher in the West and South than in the Midwest and Northeast,” and that “racial disparities in killings by police varied widely across the country, with some metropolitan areas showing very high differences between treatment by race. Black Chicagoans, for example, were found to be over 650 percent more likely to be killed by police than white Chicagoans.”

“It’s not a false narrative. Death by policemen in the black community is real,” the Rev. Frank Allen, the president of the Harrisburg-area NAACP, told WHTM-TV. “It’s as real as you and I standing here. There’s racism there. There’s profiling there. There’s ‘I will get you’ there.”

Allen added that perhaps Wolf could have softened his language by noting that not all cops are racist and defused tensions.

“We have never been this close to throwing hands at each other since the Civil War and yet the basis of this is Crayola. Which is my color and your color,” Allen told the station.

In a statement, the administration walked back its remarks.

“With the message, the commonwealth sought to invite participation in Juneteenth Day, a holiday that marks the emancipation from slavery for African-Americans,” it reads. “The intent of the email was to acknowledge that there is still work to be done across the nation towards equality and justice for all. We are sorry that this message was obscured, and we hope all Pennsylvanians can observe Juneteenth and recognize its importance. Law Enforcement officers play a vital role in protecting Pennsylvania citizens and supporting our communities, and we are sorry if anyone took offense to the message.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.

The Capital-Star had live coverage all day on Tuesday of the 2021 primary and municipal elections. Here are the key takeaways from that coverage:

In Lebanon County’s 48th Senate District, Republican Chris Gebhard was the apparent winner of a special election for the seat formerly held by the late Sen. Dave Arnold, R-Lebanon, who died in January of a brain aneurysm. Marley Parish has the details.

Democratic state Rep. Marty Flynn, D-Lackawannawon the special election for northeastern Pennsylvania’s 22nd Senate DistrictParish also reports.

In an upset, Democratic state Rep. Ed Gainey toppled Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh’s mayoral primary. If the results hold, Gainey could be on his way to becoming the Steel City’s first Black mayor, Correspondent Kim Lyons reports.

In another of the evening’s upsets, Harrisburg City Council President Wanda Williams defeated Harrisburg Mayor Eric PapenfuseStephen Caruso reports.

A graphic put together by House Republicans that seemed to advocate for the passage of those two constitutional amendments limiting the emergency powers of Gov. Tom Wolf and his successors found its way into voting booths in Franklin County, upsetting some voters, Caruso reports. 

A Republican group spent big money supporting GOP state Supreme Court hopeful Kevin BrobsonCaruso further reports. Brobson ended up winning the Republican nomination for an open seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Cassie Miller put together this analysis of the make-up and demographics of Pennsylvania’s 8.7 million registered voters.

Marley Parish talked to poll workers in Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County about Tuesday’s light turnout. She also found voters in suburban Camp Hill, Pa. ready to vote to limit the executive branch’s emergency powers.

On our Commentary Page this morning, Nancy Kleinberg, a donor and political activist from Montgomery County, says the U.S. Senate needs to pass a sprawling voting rights bill that could help level the playing field in our politics. And nursing school deans at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh say lawmakers need to finally pass a long-sought bill expanding the scope of practice for the Keystone State’s nurse practitioners.

Larry Krasner, left, and Carlos Vega (Image via Philadelphia Tribune/WHYY-FM)

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Kranser defeated challenger Carlos Vega by a wide margin, the Inquirer reports.
The Post-Gazette has its story about Democrat Ed Gainey’s upset win over incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto.
State voters backed a constitutional amendment putting a ban on racial discrimination in the state’s foundational document, the Associated Press reports (via PennLive).
LancasterOnline rounds up local election results.
Democrat Mark Tuerk has a narrow lead in Allentown’s competitive Democratic mayoral primary, the Morning Call reports.
Some Republican ballots in Luzerne County were mislabeled as Democratic, the Citizens’ Voice reports.
York County faced ballot shortages on Tuesday, sparking calls from Republicans for one local official to resign, the York Daily Record reports.

Here’s your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day:


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A post shared by JoJo (@jojo_in_pittsburgh)

Like the rest of us, WHYY-FM is still waiting for results on ballot questions limiting the emergency powers of Gov. Tom Wolf and his successors.
The race for Erie County executive is still too close to call, GoErie reports.
The Observer-Reporter rounds up local election results.
Republican Leslie Baum Rossi won the special election for a western Pennsylvania House seat, PoliticsPA reports.

What Goes On.
10 a.m, 461 Main Capitol: Capitol Preservation Committee

Gov. Tom Wolf
 hits the road for a pair of charter school reform-related events, with stops in Wilkes-Barre (11:15 a.m.) and Pottstown (1:45 p.m.).

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to David Taylor, the president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, who celebrates today. Congrats, sir.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s one from Scottish singer/songwriter Amy MacDonald that seemed to be just everywhere a few years back. It’s still a firm favorite. It’s ‘The Furthest Star.’

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link.
Baltimore got clobbered, 13-6, by the Tampa Rays on Tuesday night. Ugh.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.