A Philadelphia-area newspaper regrets publishing a Santa cartoon that has drawn the ire of local law enforcement.
The cartoon published in Sunday’s Bucks County Courier Times features a line of black children lined up asking Santa Claus to "Keep us safe from the police."
Drawn by nationally-syndicated political cartoonist Chris Britt, the cartoon references a relationship of distrust between the black community and police recently spotlighted in the Ferguson, Cleveland and Staten Island cases of black men dying at the hand of police officers.
"There is a special place in hell for you miserable parasites in the media who seek to exploit violence and hatred in order to sell advertisements," Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5 president John McNesby wrote in a letter to the editors of the Levittown-based paper.
"You owe a public apology to every law enforcement officer and their families. What’s more, you owe a particular apology to the families of those officers who gave their lives to ensure that people like you could remain safe while you defame their memories,” McNesby wrote Wednesday.
Britt told NBC10 that he didn't intend for the cartoon to be a "slam against all police officers."
"This is a cartoon, It think, that helps the debate," said Britt.
On Thursday, the paper’s editors posted a letter to their website expressing regret for publishing the illustration.
"If we had recognized before publication that the cartoon would have caused unintended offense, our editors would have selected a different one for Sunday’s newspaper,” the statement attributed to community affairs director Amy Gianfranco read. "Editing a newspaper is not easy and we don’t always get it right."
The paper went on to mention its reporters’ ongoing relationship reporting on the work of law enforcement in the community.
The paper also explained the reasoning for publication of the controversial content.
"The editorial cartoon ... was a commentary about the broad and complex relationship between black youth and police in America. It’s a relationship that has room for improvement, as has been acknowledged by members of both communities."
Creative.com, which syndicates cartoons to local papers, said that the papers select certain cartoons and have no obligation to run any cartoon.
"Though we don’t know what was in the heart and mind of the award-winning syndicated cartoonist who penned the cartoon, it was selected for publication for thoughtful reflection on that relationship. It in no way was intended to indict the law enforcement community," read the paper's statement.
Bensalem Police also asked for a full page public apology to police across the nation from the paper.
"I was outraged that local newspaper would put such a message in the paper," said Bensalem Police director of public safety Fred Harran.
The paper said they invited police to come speak with them.