A San Diego, California police officer is suing his supervisors for allegedly punishing him after he objected to the use of a racist cartoon in training sessions for supervisors, KGTV-TV reported.
Sgt. Arthur Scott said in his lawsuit against the city that he was transferred out of his division against his will after he complained to assistant police chief Todd Jarvis about the cartoon — a crude depiction of the department’s first Black officer — being shown to sergeants and lieutenants during a mandatory week-long event he attended last August. The suit also said that Scott was threatened with disciplinary action and passed over for a promotion.
The cartoon, published in the now-defunct San Diego Sun in the early 1900s, shows an ape-like caricature of Officer Frank McCarter on patrol. The cartoon also depicts him walking into a neighborhood described as Asian through the use of similarly racist depictions, like dialogue from one character saying, “He no likee John China Man” and the use of a slur. The cartoon can be seen in full above.
U-T San Diego reported that, according to Scott’s lawsuit, the cartoon was shown during a discussion about McCarter’s career, but without any mention of context regarding racism during that era.
Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said in a statement that she only heard about the cartoon after Scott filed his lawsuit on Wednesday.
“We take these allegations very seriously,” her statement read. “We will fully cooperate and support any and all investigations into this matter. At this time, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further on this case since it is in litigation.”
KNSD-TV reported that both African-American and Asian-American groups criticized the department after the cartoon was revealed to the public.
“These racist cartoons have been around for centuries,” said Gracelynn West, political advocacy coordinator for the local chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Womens’ Forum, adding, “I find it really sad that it had to take a lawsuit for this issue to be addressed.”
According to the lawsuit, Scott — vice-president of the San Diego Police Black Officers Association — was also criticized by superiors for being “hyper-sensitive” after objecting to other officers keeping what he called racist depictions of President Barack Obama inside their lockers.
“Obviously, the chiefs here don’t particularly appreciate someone’s right to speak out against racism,” Scott’s attorney, Dan Gilleon, told KGTV.
Scott’s organization for Black officers has also lent its support to him, said fellow member Sgt. Bryan Pendleton, who also attended the class in which the cartoon was shown.
“This lawsuit is not simply about a cartoon,” he said. “There are other issues that will come out throughout this process. When you take all of those together and compound them, then you’ll see clearly that there is an issue.”
Pendleton did not elaborate on the “other issues,” but KGTV reported last year that artists commissioned to paint a mural inside the department’s Southeast Division accused officers of complaining that it had “too many Black faces.”
Watch KGTV’s report on the lawsuit, as aired on Wednesday, below.