Local police say they’re disgusted by controversial cartoon

Local law enforcement officers are speaking out after The Southern Illinoisan published a controversial cartoon in Sunday’s paper.

The cartoon shows four police officers with guns, three are pointed at a black man laying the ground. A speech bubble from the mouth of a female officer reads: "His hands weren’t up high enough." Written on the squad car in the background, it says: "Tulsa PD. Black Lives Don’t Matter." On top of the car are tally marks under the word "kills." 

Hundreds have commented about the cartoon on Facebook, including Carbondale Police Officer Trey Harris, who was recently shot in the line of duty. Harris wrote a review on the newspaper’s Facebook page. It reads in part:

"I was shot in the face while doing the best I could to protect the citizens of Carbondale. I lost my right eye completely and still walk around with a bullet in my head. I didn’t care about the skin color of those I fought to protect. I didn’t then and I don’t now. Two months later, I get to see this cartoon. A gross over generalization of the everyday police officer. Ignoring any evidence that doesn’t serve an inflammatory narrative. The very definition of bigotry…"

Metropolis, Illinois Police Chief Harry Masse says he was shocked when he saw the cartoon.

"Extremely disappointed in that cartoon and extremely upset and disgusted that it was from The Southern Illinoisan, which is suppose to represent all of us down here," says Masse.

Masse says the cartoon is an example of a local paper not supporting local law enforcement. What makes him most upset, he says, is the squad car in the background.

"Every police officer is getting painted with that broad paintbrush with that cartoon," says Masse.

Monday morning, The Southern Illinoisan Publisher Craig Rogers released an apology for the cartoon. It says:

"The Southern Illinoisan regrets the editorial cartoon selected to run in Sunday’s paper. The syndicated cartoon was offensive to law enforcement and those of us who support law enforcement. Though we respect diverse opinions, we do not believe this was in good taste, nor constructive for dialog at the national or local level. We value the service of law enforcement officers serving southern Illinois, who put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe. Though editorial cartoons are rooted in satire to provoke thought, the selection of this cartoon was not vetted through our usual editorial process. We have implemented measures to prevent this in the future. We apologize to those we offended, the communities that we serve and our local law enforcement."

Travis Russell, 22, says the newspaper has nothing to be sorry about.

"I think it was well within their rights to publish that as an independent, free, journalistic newspaper," says Russell. "I don’t see any reason why they should apologize."

Masse says he appreciates the apology, but what’s done is done.

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