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Utah law enforcement takes issue with editorial cartoon in the Salt Lake Tribune

Cartoon depicts link between KKK and law enforcement
Posted at 9:42 AM, Sep 03, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Sheriff's Association has taken issue with Salt Lake Tribune editorial cartoonist, Pat Bagley for a cartoon called, "The Deep Hate.”

Bagley cartoon.jfif

The cartoon depicts a man with “law enforcement” on the back of his shirt standing next to another man who appears to be a doctor.

Both are looking at an x-ray of the officer’s body with the lower back and pelvic area drawn as a person wearing a white hooded robe such as those worn by members of the Ku Klux Klan.

The letter to the Salt Lake Tribune criticizing the cartoon was signed by the president of the Utah Sheriff’s Association, Sevier County Sheriff Nate Curtis, and executive director, Scott Burns.

Curtis said the images and comments “were offensive and served no purpose other than to fan the flames of discord at a time when we are working together in law enforcement to find ways to do better.”

Burns has worked in various capacities dealing with law enforcement for 34 years — he said he’s only seen one incident involving racism.

"We don’t respond to a Hispanic burglary or a white homicide, or a black robbery,” said Burns. "We respond to the crime and we take our victims as they come."

Recognizing that law enforcement is not perfect, Burns said to generalize all officers as racist or as white supremacists is simply wrong.

“It was a cheap shot,” said Burns. "At a time where we’re all trying to come together. We’re all trying to seek solutions."

Rep. Chris Stewart weighed in on the cartoon on twitter. He said, “This is extremely dangerous and inappropriate and fans the flames of hatred and mistrust.” Stewart said he stands with the Sheriff’s Association and called on the Tribune and Bagley to immediately retract the cartoon and apologize.

Bagley was far from apologetic in his response to Stewart’s tweet.

“Know what’s dangerous?” Bagley tweeted. Police with no accountability and a rep. who misinterprets the cartoon to rile people up. Cop in cartoon was in for a check up –he felt something was wrong. White supremacists make it a point to infiltrate law enforcement. That’s a fact. That’s a problem.”

George Pyle, the editorial page editor for the Tribune, defended the cartoon Thursday.

"The nature of a political cartoon is to raise important issues that should be faced, sometimes in a blunt way." said Pyle in a statement sent to FOX 13. "One of the most important issues facing our nation today is the fact that some elements of our nation's law enforcement community have been infiltrated by white supremacists. This was noted as a problem by the FBI as long ago as 2006."

"The cartoon does not say that every law enforcement officer is a white supremacist. It does say that it is an issue that the law enforcement community should face and deal with. The law enforcement officer depicted in the cartoon has rightly gone for a checkup because he felt that something was wrong. He is clearly not pleased with what he is seeing in the X-ray and, having seen it, may well resolve to take appropriate action. At least we can hope."

Pyle also denied the Sheriffs' Association's claim that online comments for the cartoon were turned off.

Included in the statement, Pyle provided a link to an article published by PBS in 2016.

The article references a redacted bulletin published by the FBI in 2006, warning against white supremacists infiltrating law enforcement groups.

In the bulletin, the FBI reports white supremacists would hide their beliefs so they could advance white supremacist causes, a term they called “ghost skins.”

“At least one white supremacist group has reportedly encouraged ghost skins to seek positions in law enforcement for the capability of altering skinhead crew of pending investigative actions against them,” the FBI reports.

Putting law enforcement all in one group and calling them all white supremacists or members of the KKK, to Burns, is offensive.

“There are so many good men and women who go to work every day to protect us,” said Burns. "I think they need a pat on a back, not a reference to lynchings in the south.”

Read the entire letter from the Utah Sheriff's Association below.

Editor’s note: Fox 13 has a content-sharing partnership with the Salt Lake Tribune, but we are independent of each other and do not share editorial positions.