Members of the St. Louse police community are butting heads over the use of the Punisher’s logo as a symbol of police solidarity. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is in the midst of an internal review. It is investigating officers who posted questionable images and statements on social media. Ed Clark, the president of the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association, called on members of the police union to post images of the Punisher’s symbol. He believes the Punisher skull shows solidarity with the officers under investigation.
In a letter posted to the union’s Facebook page, Clark says the Punisher has “been widely embraced by the law enforcement community as a symbol of the war against those who hate law enforcement.”
The city’s police chief disagrees with Clark’s position. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch obtained a memo written by St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden. In the memo, Hayden says the Punisher's symbol “does not coincide” with the department’s “mission to protect life and property and achieve a peaceful society.”
The Punisher himself agrees with Hayden, at least in as much as a fictional character can have an opinion. There have been reports about police attaching Punisher logo decals to vehicles. In July’s The Punisher #13, written by Matthew Rosenberg, Frank Castle encountered some of those officers in Marvel’s New York City. He did not approve.
“I’ll say this once,” Punisher says in the issue. “We’re not the same. You took an oath to uphold the law. You help people. I gave all that up a long time ago. You don’t do what I do. Nobody does. You boys need a role model? His name is Captain America, and he’d be happy to have you...If I find out you are trying to do what I do, I’ll come for you next.”
The Punisher’s co-creator, Gerry Conway, spoke on this subject earlier this year. He says that police use of the Punisher symbol shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what the character represents.
"To me, it's disturbing whenever I see authority figures embracing Punisher iconography because the Punisher represents a failure of the Justice system," Conway says. "He's supposed to indict the collapse of social moral authority and the reality some people can't depend on institutions like the police or the military to act in a just and capable way.
“The vigilante anti-hero is fundamentally a critique of the justice system, an example of social failure, so when cops put Punisher skulls on their cars or members of the military wear Punisher skull patches, they're basically sides with an enemy of the system. They are embracing an outlaw mentality. Whether you think the Punisher is justified or not, whether you admire his code of ethics, he is an outlaw. He is a criminal. Police should not be embracing a criminal as their symbol.
“It goes without saying. In a way, it's as offensive as putting a Confederate flag on a government building. My point of view is, the Punisher is an anti-hero, someone we might root for while remembering he's also an outlaw and criminal. If an officer of the law, representing the justice system puts a criminal's symbol on his police car, or shares challenge coins honoring a criminal he or she is making a very ill-advised statement about their understanding of the law.”4comments
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(h/t New York Daily News)