Nearly two weeks ago, two men leaving a meeting in Homewood, in which the strained relations between the Pittsburgh police and the city's African-American communities was one of the topics, found themselves too close for comfort to a speeding police car as they left the gathering.
Worse was to follow. They found that they had committed the crime of expressing concern. The incident remains a telling example of what can happen when there's a lack of leadership in the police department.
One of the men, Dennis Henderson, a school teacher from the North Side, was arrested. The other man, freelance photographer Rossano Stewart, was issued a warning. Both say they were handcuffed.
The arresting officer, Jonathan Gromek, who apparently was not pursuing anyone in the residential area, made a U-turn after Mr. Henderson, according to his own recollection, said "Wow" in reaction to the speeding police car. The officer confronted Mr. Henderson and Mr. Stewart and asked them if they had a problem with his driving and whether they wanted to file a complaint.
When the two men asked for his badge number, all pretense at civility ended with Officer Gromek calling for police backup. More than a dozen police officers responded. Civilian activists emerging from the meeting took out their phones and documented the incident, which ended in Mr. Henderson being handcuffed and hauled to Allegheny County Jail.
Mr. Henderson was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and obstructing the street. These charges appear outrageous given the circumstances. Not only does getting arrested hurt Mr. Henderson's reputation and professional standing, the charges seem to be transparently arbitrary and punitive.
The results of an internal investigation may be months away. We don't understand why the charges haven't been dropped by the district attorney's office,
The arrest of Mr. Henderson was an overreaction whether the police brass are able to acknowledge it or not. We need a mayor and a police chief who will make reforming the Pittsburgh police along with repairing its relations with the black community a top priority.