Officers Outraged Over KKK Painting Directed at Police Displayed in City Building
Yesterday afternoon we began to receive a flood of calls in our state office from outraged officers and from equally upset civilians concerning a painting that the city had allowed to be prominently displayed to the public in the atrium on the main floor of Denver’s Municipal Webb Building. Several people had taken pictures of the painting that was on display as part of a school art project and emailed them to us.
We were shocked and outraged to see a painting depicting a police officer, wearing a KKK hood, in front of a Confederate flag pointing a pistol at a child of color who has his hands up. A depiction that is both false in its presentation and message. We know that the “hands up” message has its roots in a well established lie that originated in Ferguson, Missouri in the aftermath of the Darren Wilson – Michael Brown incident. It is a symbol designed to divide not heal.
Many of those who called us yesterday afternoon had also called the Mayor’s office to complain and demand the painting be removed from public display in a taxpayer building. They expressed their anger that having this displayed in a taxpayer building sent a message that the city administration supported what this painting symbolized and falsely reflected the feelings of the citizens of this great city. We learned late yesterday afternoon that the painting will be removed. We are waiting for an official confirmation that has happened.
For some time now the Colorado FOP has been critical of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and his appointees in the department of safety due to their incompetent, ineffective, short sighted and highly politicized style of bad leadership. The most recent example is this public display in the first floor atrium of the city’s municipal office building of a picture that clearly depicts police officers in manner that is not only negative, but portrays them as depraved murderers of children. Only the most incompetent and incapable of government leaders and officials would allow something like this to occur on the premises of the city’s main office building where thousands of employees and Denver citizens would see it. Especially given the current climate in Denver and across the country where violence against officers is on the rise as well as an abundance of vitriolic rhetoric that seems to be encouraging this type of violence.
The law enforcement officers of Denver are not surprised by the city allowing this to happen. Our members, and members of the public, see this as continuation and confirmation of the attitude of the administration towards its public safety officers. They are justifiably outraged that the City would allow this symbol of hate to be put on public display at a time of such serious division in our country. This is the same City administration that stood back and allowed the desecration of the Denver Police memorial last year and again a month ago. The city’s decision to permit this outrageous inflammatory painting is seen as another slap in the face of its police officers, and reinforces their belief that the City Administration is dysfunctional and insensitive at best.
Hancock and his political appointees must be truly clueless to have allowed something like this to happen in the main building where the public does business with the city. Do they not understand that the message being sent to both officers and the general public is that the administration supports the belief that the police are abusive and non-caring toward citizens? Do they not understand that this most recent failure in leadership could have a serious impact on officer morale as well as police and community relations? Is it possible that they just don’t care about any of these things as long as they are able to achieve their political agenda? That agenda seems to involve perpetuating a rift between police and the community. Don’t they know that it is their responsibility as city leaders to foster a climate of mutual trust and respect between citizens and police? They should be providing leadership that fosters and preserves a high level of confidence in the officers that protect the citizens of Denver. Perhaps if they had been doing this all along instead of perpetuating a political agenda of community mistrust and making it hard for police officers to do their jobs properly, the crime rate wouldn’t be so high in Denver currently.
Media coverage last night have reported that the Mayor and his Police Chief plan to meet with the high school student who is the artist that created the picture in question to discuss the artist perception of the police. Negative perceptions of the police by young people in this country are not uncommon in today’s political climate (in fact a strangely similar picture was created and publicly displayed in Kentucky recently) so it should not come as a surprise that some young people in Denver would hold these types of views. Especially in a city like Denver where there has been little or no leadership from the administration regarding community and police relations except to contribute to their deterioration.
After this latest lapse in the Hancock administration leadership and some embarrassing news coverage about it, don’t be surprised to see the Mayor and his appointees put together some event or forum to facilitate dialog around the issue of police and community relations. Certainly this is a positive concept that has the potential to produce something that is needed and helpful to citizens and officers, but if we look at the past incompetence and lack of leadership from the administration in this area you would have to be skeptical. In addition the past record of the administration would indicate that they if did engage in something like this that the effort would be disingenuous and likely more smoke and mirrors than something real. However, we think that something that would bring citizens and officers together to talk about the issues that are causing division would be good so if it happens remember you heard it here first.
The issue here, and the outrage expressed, is not aimed at the 10th grader who created this painting; or the child’s teacher that apparently approved of it. That is for someone else to address. As stated several times our outrage and concern is with the Denver City Government’s ignorant and insensitive decision to allow this to happen. This is just another outrageous example of the city’s insensitivity towards its law enforcement officers and the citizens of Denver. This disgusting completely false symbol of hate being passed off as art, is being promoted by the city during a time when healing and understanding is needed in this city and nation. City administration needs to revaluate its relationship with the community, and the men and women who put their lives on the line daily protecting the community.
Enough is enough.
*As a side note we received the following link to a Kentucky news story via email yesterday. It would appear this Denver student’s painting, that was on display in the municipal building as part of a school art project, is not an original. And the fact that the Kentucky and Denver paintings are so close to identical does not appear coincidental. It certainly appears to have been copied. As you will see in this news story (link below) the student in Kentucky presented an almost identical painting that created a highly publicized similar controversy there: