Late last year, PORAC was notified of a controversial painting displayed in the corridors of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. The painting was hung in the Capitol by Congressman William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.). A few days later, Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) removed the painting and returned it to Congressman Clay’s office.
PORAC and our partners at Marketplace Communications, Aaron Read & Associates, and Steptoe & Johnson immediately responded with member communications and a press release, as well as a letter to Congressman Clay. The following is a copy of that letter. PORAC will continue to fight to defend our members in all corners of this country.
An Open Letter to Congressman Lacy Clay
PORAC understands that members of the U.S. House of Representatives are asked to select artwork created by students in their districts to be displayed in the United States Capitol. The idea is to recognize the talents and achievements of young constituents, and promote artistic expression and discussion. It has not been seen as a way to make cheap political points — until now.
Unfortunately, the cheap points being made — in the U.S. Capitol, the symbol of America’s democracy — are at the expense of America’s law enforcement community. They are embodied in the painting that glorifies protesters moving down an urban street holding signs that read “Stop Killing” and “Racism Kills” while police officers are depicted as gun-toting pigs standing in the way of justice.
First, the piece denigrates the career that we have chosen. Law enforcement is an honorable profession. Our men and women are relied upon every day by hundreds of millions of law-abiding American citizens to keep them safe.
Second, and most offensive, is the fact that this artwork is being displayed in the seat of American democracy, an institution we have each dedicated our lives to defending. And, unfortunately, more and more of our colleagues pay the ultimate price for their commitment. In the past year alone, 140 law enforcement officers have died violently in the line of duty — and many of those brave men and women were specifically targeted because of the uniform they wear. Vilifying police officers in the hallowed halls of the U.S. Capitol, where we as citizens bring our families, is deeply insulting and extremely counterproductive.
The best way to address problems that persist between law enforcement and the communities we serve is through constructive dialogue and not symbolic, inflammatory and gratuitous gestures like hanging an inflammatory painting on a congressional wall.
Congressman Clay, we look forward to continuing constructive discussions in hope that you will not rely on offensive overgeneralizations as the basis for your understanding of the complex landscape of police and community relations. To this end, we invite you to come on a ride-along with one of our members the next time you are in California. Perhaps joining an officer (knowing that by simply sitting in a police cruiser you may be a target) may help you understand why this artwork has no place in the halls of the Capitol.
PORAC Partners With PubSecAlliance as a Founding Member
At our January meeting, your Executive Committee voted to partner with PubSecAlliance as one of its founding members. This will provide PORAC members with a full range of national contacts of law enforcement leaders, as well as many other benefits.