Artwork in Webb building upsets police unions

Posted at 10:00 PM, Mar 22, 2016

A drawing depicting a white police officer as a member of the KKK, pointing a gun at a black child, with a Confederate flag breaking through the American flag is being dubbed 'hate art' by police unions in Colorado.

It's just one of dozens of pieces of artwork currently displayed inside the City of Denver’s Wellington Webb Municipal Office Building.

It has set off a firestorm of criticism.

The National Latino Peace Officers Association is calling it, "hate art." The Denver Police Protective Association is calling it a "horrible stereotype."

The art on display is the work of students in Denver Public Schools.

“I’m shocked, appalled, embarrassed,” said Nick Rodgers, president of the DPPA. But what's most offensive about it to Rodgers isn't the art itself, but where it's on display.

"It's not to be put on display in a government building," said Rodgers. "That gives it some legitimacy that it actually means something."

Rodgers drafted a letter to Mayor Michael Hancock Tuesday asking for the removal of the piece. The mayor’s office did not respond. Denver7 reached out to the mayor’s office as well, and got no response.

It’s certainly not the only controversial piece of artwork on display. There’s also a drawing of Donald Trump with claws and an animal’s body chasing cartoon character Speedy Gonzales across the border.

There’s also a piece featuring a cow and a chicken slaughtering humans with knives and saws.

The artist of the police officer piece calls it the, "Re-Contextualization of Goya's Third of May."   

The original Goya's Third of May 1808 was completed in 1814 by artist Francisco Goya.     

It commemorates the Spanish resistance to Napoleon's armies.

Rodgers says the interpreted piece needs to come down.

“It could hang in an art gallery,” he said. “It could hang in a private institution. A private business. I don’t have a problem with that.”

And he says he doesn't begrudge the artist.

"I'd love to sit down and talk to them and let them get to know who I am and who all cops are," said Rodgers. "We keep perpetuating this dissension, this hatred."

The National Latino Peace Officers Association said in a statement, “Colorado chapters and its members are highly insulted regarding the public display of a piece of hate art from a DPS student that is currently on display in the Webb Bldg.  It is an insult to the 2,400 DPD and DSD Officers and deputies who risk their lives each day for the public, which includes DPS teachers and students.”

Rodgers says the buck stops with Mayor Michael Hancock.

"It's his building," Rodgers said. “Just take it down. And, I want him to issue an apology to current Denver police officers and retired Denver police officers and their families. Because they don’t deserve this.”

The artwork was brought to Rodgers attention by two detectives filing a case with the Denver District Attorney’s office - which is in the Webb Building.

“They actually came back into the building to make sure they saw what they saw,” he said. “And these guys had just worked their butts off on a major case.”

Late Tuesday night the City of Denver and Denver Public Schools said the student has asked that her piece be taken down after learning of the negative impact of her work.
The police chief called the artwork "greatly concerning."
DPS will hold a news conference Wednesday at 11 a.m. regarding the issue.