Issue One: K-9 police shootings
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I agree with George Yochum's letter ("Judgment Call," May 15) asserting that the Post-Gazette's coverage of the killing of Justin Jackson has been irresponsible. Using euphemisms to describe violence (the dog was set on Jackson to "subdue" him in a "run-in") frames police actions as gentle, necessary corrections ("Officer Kills Man During Run-in With K-9," May 7). Contrast these terms with those the PG used to describe Jackson's "fiery" funeral: Bishop Otis L. Carswell doesn't speak out about the injustice of this killing; rather, he "blasts" and "rips" police ("Fiery Funeral for Man Killed by Police," May 14).
Let's disentangle ourselves from the misleading talk enough to examine a real issue raised by this killing: the inherent racism in the use of attack dogs, given their disproportionate use against blacks and especially given our nation's shameful history of using dogs to track and "subdue" escaping slaves.
Launching a journalistic investigation into the relationship among institutionalized racism, the police and the use of dogs as weapons would be a more appropriate response to this killing than what the PG chose to do last Sunday. On the front page, the PG treated readers to a picture of the exploited animal's "funeral."
While words can distort, pictures tell the truth: The photograph -- featuring a pack of armed, uniformed white men, German shepherds at their sides, all lined up and saluting proudly -- evoked nothing more clearly than Nazi Germany.
In his May 15 letter "Judgment Call," George Yochum asks that we "please get [our] sense of proportion back in order." I had to re-read that twice to see if maybe I wasn't getting the gist of the joke right. Then I realized something that I think Mr. Yochum got wrong: Our sense of proportion is in the proper order!
True, it was tragic that the Jackson family lost a son in a tragic way. However, don't you think that the tragedy would have been avoided if the son: A) had complied with the officers' command and allowed himself to be brought in peacefully, and B) hadn't fired on the police dog to begin with?
What if the PG had decided to splash a big front-page picture of Justin Jackson's funeral and give Officer Ulf just a wee itty bitty blurb? Don't you think it would be sending the wrong message to every criminal that if you shoot a police dog or a police officer and during the commission of that crime you get shot, you get to be a front-page celebrity at your funeral?
Tell me again, Mr. Yochum, whose sense of proportion is out of balance?
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First Published May 18, 2008 12:00 am