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Ackerman cartoon irks readers

Steve Ackerman’s latest cartoon, poking fun at the Kennewick Police Department over an incident at the Kennewick Housing Authority Complex, has drawn fire.

A couple of letters are working their way through the pipeline and should show up in our letters column in the next few days. The writers aren’t happy with us.

Jack Simington points out that the cartoon ran at the beginning of National Police Memorial Week, which honors law enforcement officers who’ve died in the line of duty.

“In my opinion, this was one of your most moronic moments and a slap in the face of every Kennewick Police Officer,” he wrote.

It needs to be pointed out that Ackerman is no different than a columnist or letter writer in that he speaks solely for himself. He doesn’t represent the views of the editorial board and sometimes takes an opposite point of view.

The Herald’s opinion staff is still responsible for putting it on the page. If you think it shouldn’t have run at all, which at least a few readers believe, then we’re the right target for your criticism.

But it’s an important distinction to make. Cartoons aren’t an expression of the editorial board’s consensus. Our collective opinion appears on the left-hand side of the Opinion page, under our names and headed with the words “Our Voice.”

Most readers will remember the details. At the Housing Authority’s request, KPD conducted a safety audit of its rental units and recommended some shrubbery be cut back so the bad guys wouldn’t have a place to hide.

Then, while one long-time tenant was out, Housing Authority workers went at her landscaping. From the photo published in the Herald, it looked like they’d used the blunt end of the hatchet.

The fact is, the editorial board thinks Kennewick police are blameless in the whole sorry episode. Our editorial takes the Housing Authority to task for the way it handled the situation, but not for wanting to improve safety.

We’re big fans of KPD. The department is an active and visible partner in the community, not just in policing the streets but every aspect of civic life.

Chief Ken Hohenberg and his staff move quickly to make things right when a mistake is made. And they communicate clearly with the public so everyone knows what corrective actions were taken and why.

It’s the way a police department ought to be run.

Ackerman’s cartoon clearly struck a nerve. Some of it was timing, running on the day police officers were remembering their fallen comrades.

Some of it was because KPD has been the target of undeserved criticism for the Housing Authority's ham-handed handling of some safety recommendations.

But exaggeration is one of the standard tools in a cartoonist’s toolbox. Ridiculous overstatement is an effective way to comment on the absurdity of a situation.

Some feathers were ruffled, but everyone ought to keep in mind that it’s a cartoon.