Cartoon editorials on Law Enforcement
For years newspaper editorial cartoons have provided the public with a humorous graphical depiction of current events. As indicated by Brinkman (1998), cartoon editorials are visual and verbal vocabulary pieces that are meant for educational purposes in a manner that mass audiences are allowed to interpret the columnist’s ideas and opinions. Nevertheless, over the recent past, there have been concerns over how editorial cartoons have depicted law enforcement officers. The number of shootings that resulted in the death of unarmed African Americans from 2015 to date has reached epidemic proportions. According to a study by the Guardian, despite making up about 2% of the total population in the U.S, African American males aged between 15 and 34 years old constitute more than 15% of all deaths logged since 2014. With such figures, it can be argued that police-related deaths are five times more likely to involve a black man than their white counterparts. Additionally, the figures become worse when it comes to the shooting of unarmed men. The killings of Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner, are believed by some to be evidence of a long-standing problem of using excessive force police on African American individuals. The most common racial stereotypes known in criminal justice is that African Americans are inherently violent and thus need to be treated as such. The killing of Sean Bell in 2006 seems to echo such a stereotype. In that case, the victim was killed after leaving an entertainment hub for home by five police officers of whom did not have clear reasons to open fire. Reports of the incidence reported that officers Paul Headley shot 1 round, Michael Carey shot 3 rounds, Marcus Cooper shot 4 founds, Gescard Isnora shot 11 rounds, and Michael Oliver shot 31 rounds. In total, the victim was killed in a hail of 50 bullets.
The Image above is a carton editorial that was presented to highlight the incidence that happened to Sean Bell in 2006. The editorial is written from the viewpoint of the public seemingly shocked by not only the killing of an unarmed man but also by the force used. In the editorial, an interviewer who is depicted as a colored individual asks a police officer (Mr. White Police) the number of shots needed to defend himself against one unarmed black male. By interpretation, the question is rhetoric first the words Unarmed and Black Man are bolded to show a reversed logic and racial profiling. In response, the police officer ignorantly begins to shout ‘BLAM, BLAM’ to depict the sound of a fired weapon. This is a subtle way to show the ignorance of the police officers part. He later states 41 shots, which in response the interviewer asks if that is an excessive amount. He arrogantly states that the shooting would have happened if the individual would just listen
The piece presented serves to show the difference between public and law enforcement logic towards the use of excessive force. The irony of the question is not open for interpretation; a police officer has to have a good explanation as whey him or her needs to defend attacks from an ‘unarmed’ individual by shooting. Secondly, racial prejudice is also evident through the use of the terms ‘Mr. White officer’ and unarmed ‘black man’. The reverse would be Mr. Officer and an unarmed individual. Thirdly, it shows ignorance in part if the officer who fails to understand the question posed to him. Instead of indicating a reason to kill an individual who does not pose a threat, he starts shouting. Lastly, the last bit of the conversation hosts the true purpose of the editorial. The use of the words ‘You people’ highlights racial profiling. Additionally, Mr. White police officer passes a statement of rebellion against the black community.
The image above is a clear and prime example of the use of a cartoon editorial passing a message of racial profiling, police arrogance and Ignorance, and lack of communication between the community and police. The Sean Bell in 2006 was intended to highlight the excessive use of force; however, Michael Oliver has been and continues to be used a racially prejudicial officer who shot at the victim’s vehicle 31 times. It is clear that his intentions were not defending himself but shooting to kill. The interviewer passes a subtle case of the use of excessive use force; nevertheless, the response provide seems to highlight miscommunication. The officer seems to state if unarmed African Americans followed instructions, they would not be shot 41 times. The editorial is significantly effective as it is clear, humorous, and highlights a difference in the school of thought between the police and the public particularly African Americans.
In summary, over the last decade cartoon editorials have continued to depict a picture of prejudice against the criminal justice department. The example used in this paper is a clear example of a piece that draws a clear comprehension on the matter. The response of such material has been under scrutiny; nevertheless, it can be argued that though is may be inaccurate in detail , it hosts significant truths that need to be addressed.
Brinkman, D. (1998). Do editorial cartoons and editorials change opinions?. Journalism Quarterly, 45(4), 724-726.
Flegenheimer, M. And Baker A. (2012). Officer in Bell Killing Is Fired; 3 Others to Be Forced Out. New York Times online Magazine retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/nyregion/in-sean-bell-killing-4-officers-to-be-forced-out.html
Swaine, J., Laughland O., Lartey J., and McCarthy C. (2015). Young black men killed by US police at highest rate in year of 1,134 deaths. The Guardian Online Magazine retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/31/the-counted-police-killings-2015-young-black-men