In a potentially controversial response to internal investigations taking place at the St. Louis Police Department, the city's police union has posted The Punisher logo overlaid with "thin blue line" imagery online. Strangely enough, the root of the investigation is in officers sharing this exact image online, in addition to other, more explicitly hateful types of content.
The initial scandal kicked off when online evidence of racial, religious, and other concerning biases were compiled by the Plain View Project (whose goal is to unearth inappropriate content promoting hate and violence on police officers' Facebook pages), which resulted in dozens of St. Louis police officers being placed under review or permanently banned from getting their cases looked into by the city's district attorney. Despite evidence of anti-Muslim rhetoric, Confederate flags, and other extreme politically charged content, the use of the "thin blue line" variant of the Punisher logo is the image that the St. Louis Police Officers Association is latching onto as its rallying cry over what it deems unfair treatment.
In a Facebook post, the St. Louis police union is calling on "all officers and supporters" to change their Facebook profile pictures to that of the "thin blue line" Punisher logo, which it deems a "symbol of the war against those who hate law enforcement." Oddly not seeing any harm in embracing the symbol of a vengeful (although admittedly cool) vigilante that operates outside of the justice system in order to kill wrongdoers, the union declares that the St. Louis Police Department's decision to investigate those found sharing this and other concerning content to have been "political" in nature, stating, "The fact is, there will always be someone who will find fault with any symbol we identify with or person we choose to carry our message."
St. Louis Police Commissioner John Hayden Jr. didn't take this call to action kindly, and St. Louis Today obtained his internal response memo. Establishing the Punisher to be a "fictional, comic book vigilante" who "engages in acts of violence, to include murder, kidnapping, and extortion in his one-man effort against crime," Commissioner Hayden logically concludes that the character "does not coincide with [the St. Louis Police Department's] mission to protect life and property and achieve a peaceful society." Further explaining that the Punisher's principles are juxtaposed against the oath that every police officer takes, Hayden even points to the words of comic creator Gerry Conway, who said that "'the Punisher represents a failure of the justice system.'"
Commissioner Hayden's words ring true, and it's unfortunate that the dialogue between the public and its sworn protectors has grown so toxic that a beloved comic book character's logo has become the center of the St. Louis Police Department's controversy. Until tensions between those two groups finally ease, true series fans will likely have to continue explaining that their Punisher-branded accessories aren't making controversial statements.