Pittsburgh, Pa., Police Chief Cameron McLay thought he was practicing an important tenet of community policing when he obliged an activist’s request to take a picture holding an anti-racism sign at the city’s New Year’s Eve parade, MSNBC reports. The sign read: “I resolve to challenge racism @ work #EndWhiteSilence.”

Instead of winning praise for addressing the deep-seated issue that continues to divide the nation in the form of deadly and explosive confrontations between police and some communities, the chief has sparked outrage among some critics, including Pittsburgh police union president Howard McQuillan, the report says.

“The chief is calling us racists,” he told KDKA. “He believes the Pittsburgh Police Department is racist. This has angered a lot of officers.”

While issuing an apology Friday for offending anyone, McLay did not back down, MSNBC reports. “To me, the term ‘white silence’ simply means that we must be willing to speak up to address issues of racial injustice, poverty, etc.,” he said, the news station writes. “In my heart, I believe we all must come together as community to address real world problems; and I am willing to be a voice to bring community together.”