Thursday, December 01, 2005

Philadelphia in an uproar over editorial cartoon.

Nation: A Signe Wilkinson editorial cartoon that showed a Klu Klux Klan travel agent telling other Klans men "if you want great views of young black men killing each other" they should visit Philadelphia. The police chief is irate.

Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson finds nothing funny about murder. And he took great offense with yesterday's Daily News cartoon depicting a Ku Klux Klan travel agent touting Philadelphia as a place with "great views of young black men killing each other." "I take it as a personal insult," Johnson said. "Not just as the police commissioner, but as an Afro-American here in the city of Philadelphia." The commissioner held up the cartoon, created by Daily News editorial cartoonist Signe Wilkinson, during an anti-violence press conference yesterday at police headquarters. "I think the News has an obligation to be responsible," Johnson said. "To compare the Ku Klux Klan with the young black men being killed in the city of Philadelphia is irresponsible." ....Daily News Editor Michael Days said: "Editorial cartoons, of course, aren't meant to be funny. Their intent is to provoke thought, and hopefully spur action on a major issue impacting us all. "Right now we find ourselves in the midst of a killing field where mostly young black men are killing other young black men. "An editorial cartoon, of course, is open to interpretation. But when I saw it, it struck me that Signe's message is that, unfortunately, too many young black men have become like the Klan. The only difference now is that we have turned the hatred inward, and are hunting and killing our own." There have been 346 slayings in the city this year, according to homicide detectives. At the same point in 2004, there were 290. "We've had a bad year, I understand that," Johnson said. "If we have a year with just 10 homicides, that's a bad year." "There is never going to be a good year when it comes to homicides and murders. Never."
Suprisingly, given that it is the Philly Daily News, Jill Porter points out the real problem is the high murder rate and it reflects badly on the commish and other city officials. But she does put out a whopper in the opening.
ONE A DAY. That's the chilling toll of homicides in the city this year. Actually, right now it's more than one a day. As of yesterday, the 333rd day of the year, there were 346 slayings. This could become the worst year for homicides in the last eight years. It's a trend not seen in other big cities - a fact that's sure to sully the city's improving reputation.(improving?) ....Whole parts of this city are no longer under police control, but hostage to inhuman warlords who'll kill witnesses for cooperating with law enforcement. And what does Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson have to say about it? Instead of vowing to do everything it takes to halt the slaughter - including insisting on more money for more cops, if that's the answer - he justifies, defends and rationalizes. And he lashes out at the media. ....And surely, with the death toll mounting, the city's top law-enforcement official can do more than rail at the media and talk about what he can't do. "The police commissioner's job is a political one," said one critic. "It has less to do with law enforcement and more to do with instilling confidence in people that the city is safer because I'm in charge." Johnson says the people in the neighborhoods he visits regularly are confident in his leadership. "I think people feel more comfortable now than they've ever felt," he said, citing the hundreds of drug corners shut down by Operation Safe Streets. And Johnson is highly regarded by neighborhood activists and anti-crime crusaders whom he's given unprecedented access and personal support. "I do believe he's doing the best he can under the circumstances," said state Rep. Dwight Evans, who's in the forefront of anti-violence initiatives. But Johnson is equally reviled by some people in law enforcement. Sources, who declined to be named, told me they think he's mismanaged the department and been a weak, inarticulate leader. One elected official said the department seems to have shifted from aggressive law enforcement to being "partially a social- service agency." Indeed, Johnson repeatedly says "traditional policing" doesn't work.
He did not shake off the weak, inarticulate leader image with this hissy fit at the media for pointing out the obvious and may have made matters worse for himself. A police department is not supposed to be a social agency, it is about enforcing the law within certain parameters that doesn't invite/create abuse of power. The fact that so many of these activists and crusaders are happy with him is a huge red flag that something needs to change.

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