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Poster outside EBR library prompts talk about how police are perceived

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BATON ROUGE - A controversial mystery is unfolding in the front yard of a library.

As library officials constructed a display of posters made by Woodlawn Middle School students, one struck a nerve: a poster depicting police brutality featuring a shadowy figure appearing to be a police officer pointing a gun at a crying child holding a teddy bear. Text appeared on the poster reading, "Police brutality. STOP IT!"

Area law enforcement officers were taken back by the display. Frustrated, they said it was an opportunity to educate people on misnomers about deputies and police officers.

"What this tells me, is that this child is getting this message from somewhere," East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office spokesperson Casey Hicks said.

Tuesday morning, the post was gone but others in the display remained. It was unclear where the poster went.

"These are the kind of images that you might see on an editorial cartoon or in the local paper. So... they're responding and acting to what they see going on in the world," Mary Stein, the assistant library director, said about the posters. "This is how art is and art gives students a positive way in which to wrap their heads around a problem. It also gives us an opportunity for civil discourse and conversation. So, if this basically triggered a nerve with a student or a community member who saw it, then there's obviously room for some discussion."

"Now, we get to talk about it and have a dialogue about it," Hicks said.  "Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said he's upset that some young people in our community are receiving messages that cause them to perceive law enforcement this way.  We need to change the narrative through positive dialogue." 

Hicks add, she hopes the poster will be a tool for area law enforcement officials to use to help ease tensions in the community.  Siting an example, she said a deputy responded to a comment on Facebook suggesting authorities should not respond to calls for help from people who the opposing views that deputies will respond whenever and wherever. 

"That is the heart of our law enforcement community," she said. 

The poster collection was meant to showcase problems in the lives of youngsters. Other posters depicted kidnapping and broken hearts.


Follow the publisher of this post on Twitter: @treyschmaltz


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