The Pittsburgh Foundation

Response to the Michael Rosfeld trial verdict

A joint statement from Maxwell King, President and CEO, The Pittsburgh Foundation, and Grant Oliphant, President, The Heinz Endowments.

The sense of shock and outrage at the acquittal of former police officer, Michael Rosfeld, for the criminal homicide of 17-year-old Antwon Rose is understandable, and we share it.

All of us need to pay close attention.

Pittsburgh now sadly joins a disturbing and ever-growing catalogue of cases across the United States in recent years, in which law enforcement or security officials have walked free after the killings of young black men under questionable circumstances.

The eyes of the law are mandated to be “blind” to prejudice or bias in accordance with its edict that everyone is treated equally.  We have asked the question, ‘Would Antwon Rose be alive today if he had been white?’ We, his family and African American community leaders believe that more than likely he would be.

America is strewn with too many examples of how the poor are betrayed, how African Americans are disfavored and how immigrants are abused. This only adds to the heartbreak and deep sense of injustice that now hangs heavy over our city.

Pittsburgh now has the unwelcome notoriety of having its name added to a list of troubling incidents across America where the dispensing of justice has been less than convincing following the deaths of young black men. And there are questions that must be urgently addressed, locally and nationally, concerning police behavior, law enforcement recruitment and police officer training.

If we are to expect more from our police – and we do – we must, as a community, do more to provide resources to help them do a better job. In our region, that means more police training, more resources for police departments, and better pay for the officers themselves if we expect the best in performance from our police force.

As a community and as individuals, we must hold fast to our respect for the judicial process and the validity of the jury's decision, even as we demand greater accountability for the future. We offer our heartfelt sympathies and condolences to Antwon Rose’s family. And we must finally come to terms with the critical issues of fairness and equity for all, not only in how the law is applied, but in how we treat and care for each other in our daily lives.