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Feb. 12 2010 - 9:50 pm | 822 views | 2 recommendations | 1 comment

Cartoonist under fire for depiction of Pittsburgh Police as racists

crop_rob rogers_jordan miles

Editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers under fire in Pittsburgh.

It’s been over a month since Pittsburgh Police allegedly beat Jordan Miles, an 18-year-old CAPA student who was walking to his grandmother’s house in Homewood when three undercover officers arrested him on suspicion of gun possession. Since then, national attention was temporarily cast on Pittsburgh, but has since mostly faded away. But throughout, public opinion on the incident has remained split. One side supports the actions of the police and believes further examination will reveal the officers acted accordingly in their arrest of Mr. Miles. In contrast, the other side is outraged at the brutality and excessive force used in Miles’ arrest.

Tensions over the incident have popped up again after Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cartoonist Rob Rogers published a controversial piece depicting Pittsburgh Police as racists. For context, see cartoon and Rogers’ brief comments below:

rob rogers_jordan miles

Editorial cartoons are meant to be provocative. They are intended to make people uncomfortable, especially those who abuse power. On Wednesday I drew a cartoon about the beating of a black teenager, Jordan Miles, by three white policeman. Here is the original story about the beating as it ran in the Post-Gazette and later in the Huffington Post. (via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

What has some of the public in a mild frenzy, is the way Rogers used the “by the book” line in the cartoon. It’s a not-so-subtle nod to the public statement made by Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Charles Hanlon, who in the wake of the Miles’ beating, said: “[The officers] actions were correct and law-abiding by everything they received in their training.” One of the panels in the cartoon then shows what Rogers terms as a Racist Skinhead Etiquette Handbook.

In an interview with Editor & Publisher on Thursday, Rogers further discussed the cartoon and police reaction to it:

“As a cartoonist it’s my job to exaggerate to the degree where you get a gasp,” [Rogers said]. “And that, to them, was a blanket statement that all police are racist skinheads. That’s not what I was saying at all. I wanted to direct some attention to this incident — isn’t this a little over the top?” (via Editor & Publisher)

The question Rogers asks, “Isn’t this a little over the top?” is one that any rational person should be asking when this type of violent incident occurs. And the longer this incident is allowed to languish, without action or a definitive endpoint, it runs the risk of fading away for good. To take a look at the blowback from Rogers’ cartoon, just scroll through the comments section here.


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  1. collapse expand

    One of the comments says the following:
    “A man in your position [the editorial cartoonist] ought to hold yourself to a higher standard. You possess command of a powerful medium and whether you know it or not, it can do great damage.”

    You know what else can do great damage? Fists, batons, tasers and the ability [but not authority] to use them on anyone for any reason at any time. If that ability is used illegitimately or mistakenly, any attempt by the innocent to defend oneself may (and will) be met with lethal force.

    So…maybe *police* [or anyone else issued firearms and the right to use them on our citizens] should be the ones held to higher standards?

    Besides, anybody who’s paid attention to the news media for the past 9 years know that there are no standards in journalism any more. The idea of imposing “higher” ones is meaningless.

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    I am a writer, editor, and blogger who lives and works in the once-decaying heart of America's Rust Belt (i.e. Pittsburgh, PA). My work focuses on subculture, crime, mental health, race, class, and creativity.

    My writing appears in Spin, Good, XLR8R, Next American City, RaceWire, and Swindle, among other print and online publications. I have reported on the decline of sampling in hip-hop; interviewed artists and musicians who survived Cambodia’s killing fields; investigated the struggles of U.S. military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder; and shadowed graffiti writers, coaxing candid confessions about their obsession with illegal art.

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