This post has been updated.
An editorial cartoon depicting children asking Santa Claus, "Keep us safe from the police," published in a Bucks County newspaper on Sunday has drawn the ire of the Fraternal Order of Police.
In a scathing letter dated Wednesday (click to see full letter), Philadelphia FOP Lodge 5 President John McNesby demanded an apology from the Bucks County Courier Times for the cartoon.
"Surprisingly, you have at least one reader of that excuse for a newspaper you run," McNesby wrote in part. "The one reader forwarded a copy of your disgraceful and highly offensive 'cartoon.' "
He went on to write that the newspaper owed an apology to every law-enforcement officer and their families for the cartoon.
"What's more, you owe a particular apology to the families of those officers who gave their lives to ensure that people like you could remain safe," the letter continues.
"There is a special place in hell for you miserable parasites in the media who seek to exploit violence and hatred in order to sell advertisements," McNesby added later in his letter to the Levittown-based paper.
Since the cartoon appeared in the paper Sunday, it has drawn criticism in letters to the editor and on social media.
In a response to the backlash headlined "To our readers," posted on the paper's website at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Executive Editor Patricia S. Meagher-Walker wrote, "Our Editorial Page is a forum for opinions, even controversial ones. Letters, cartoons and guest opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of our editorial board, rather that of the author or artist."
The editorial cartoon is by Chris Britt, a nationally syndicated cartoonist.
Meagher-Walker added, "Those who subscribe to this newspaper understand our commitment to the community and our steadfast support for law enforcement and those who work very hard to make Bucks County a better place to live. We are united in that effort," and encouraged angered readers to write letters to the editor. One letter already submitted and published in the Courier Times Wednesday came from the wife of a police officer.
Kim DeForrest, of Morrisville, called the cartoon "ignorant," writing in part, "Yes, there are police who make mistakes or poor judgment. However, these fine men and women leave their families every day with a gun strapped to their hip and Kevlar on their chest to go out and protect the fine citizens who read your papers."
McNesby ended his fiery letter with a promise:
"Rest assured that this letter will be distributed to as many residents and businesses in Bucks County as we are able to reach," he wrote. "Here's wishing you a bankrupt New Year."
On Thursday, the Bucks County Courier Times issued this statement in response to the backlash over the cartoon:
The editorial staff and management team of the Bucks County Courier Times respect the work of law enforcement and appreciate the risks they take and sacrifices they make each day.
The editorial cartoon that was published in our newspaper on Sunday, Dec. 7, was a commentary about the broad and complex relationship between black youth and police in America. It's a relationship that has room for improvement, as has been acknowledged by members of both communities.
Though we don't know what was in the heart and mind of the award-winning syndicated cartoonist who penned the cartoon, it was selected for publication for thoughtful reflection on that relationship. It in no way was intended to indict the law enforcement community.
If we had recognized prior to publication that the cartoon would have caused unintended offense, our editors would have selected a different one for Sunday's newspaper. Editing a newspaper is not easy and we don't always get it right.
Democracy isn't easy either, but the protection of democracy puts journalists and law enforcement on the same side more often than not. That is particularly true at the Bucks County Courier Times. Our readers know our body of work and the respect and professionalism we show to law enforcement.
Our reporters and editors spend a great deal of time reporting on the work of area law enforcement and the protection of our communities. Both the Courier Times and Intelligencer newspapers have been fortunate to have police officers and police chiefs as community members of our editorial boards – selected, in part, to make sure the voice of law enforcement is something we hear. Those officers were willing to volunteer their time with our editorial boards because they know our publications respect the work that they do.
That mutual respect between local law enforcement and our staff is demonstrated time and time again when police ask us to share information with the public. Our journalists do work that helps police apprehend criminals and keep citizens away from dangerous situations.
Our respect for law enforcement also means we want to be part of the conversation about how to improve the relationship between police and the black community. We will continue to be involved in helping our readers understand the current national debate about the use of police force. We've published a variety of opinions on the issue and will continue to do so.
It's our job.
The Courier Times welcomes all views because we know that conversation and debate is the fuel that will bring about positive change in our communities.