Editorial cartoon sparks outrage among police

Editor: Cartoon expresses cartoonist's opinion, is meant to provoke discussion

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A spokesperson for the Jacksonville chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police has criticized the Florida Times-Union for an editorial cartoon that he said is offensive and puts local police officers in danger.

The cartoon by nationally renowned cartoonist Milt Priggee was published last Wednesday, and it compares the arrest of Dylann Roof, who shot nine black church members in a Charleston, South Carolina, sanctuary, to the shooting of a black man who was pulled over for a minor traffic infraction.

It's important to point out that following Roof's capture, detectives bought fast food for the 21-year-old. Detectives said that's standard practice to get a suspect to talk to them.

Times-Union editor Frank Denton said editorial cartoons are meant to be extreme. He said they are designed to spark conversation about issues that some might consider emotional.

But FOP president Steve Amos said local police officers are furious over what the cartoon implies, and the dangers it could present for police.

"They are outraged and embarrassed, because they don't believe they should be categorized or stereotyped in that way obviously," Amos said. "And they know how hard they are working (in) these communities to fix these problems. It's their sworn duty."

The relationship between young black men and police has been filled with violent and deadly confrontations over the last year, causing rising discontent along racial lines since a black teenager was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

According to police, cartoons like the one published in the Times-Union put local police officers' lives at risk. Amos pointed to the recent unprovoked shootings of police officers in Houston, Georgia and Louisiana, saying the editorial cartoon paints a broad brush that all white police officers are racist.

"It infuriates me. It offends me. There is no truth in the nature of the cartoon at all," Amos said. "I don't understand why the Times-Union would put something like that in our local newspaper."

In an open letter on Facebook, Amos said, "In a time where police officers are killed just because they wear a uniform, and assaults on officers are at an all-time high, this type of irresponsible journalism puts the dollar before (the) story."

Denton said the cartoon does not reflect the views of the newspaper, and he said editorial cartoons are often extreme because they are meant to provoke thought about national issues. Denton says the Times -Union has published numerous cartoons in support of local police as well, saying editorial cartoons are not meant to be interpreted literally.

"It's a legitimate public discussion about the behavior of some people on the street and the behavior of some -- not all -- police officers, and certainly not the majority or even close to it," Denton said. "It certainly doesn't depict the way the vast majority of police officers react. It was an extreme view. It was a cartoonist's view, and that's what's important. It's the view of the cartoonist. That's why we label it 'Another View,' and the way they work is to exaggerate and make their point."

Denton said editors at the paper would not be issuing an apology to the FOP, because if they did so, they would be apologizing to someone every time they publish an editorial cartoon.  

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