Police ‘deeply troubled’ by artwork in Madison Central Library

Police ‘deeply troubled’ by artwork in Madison Central Library
"Don't Shoot" by Mike Lroy

Area police say they are “deeply troubled” by a piece of artwork recently installed in the Madison Central Library.

The piece entitled “Don’t Shoot” by artist Mike L’Roy aims to “startle, shock, and interrupt your reality.”

It depicts a young African-American child pointing what looks like a water gun at three officers, who are wearing riot gear and pointing guns back at the child.

The installation appears on the first floor of the Central branch of the Madison Public Library.

Executive Director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association Jim Palmer released a joint statement Friday with Madison Professional Police Officers Association President Dan Frei saying they had the “utmost respect” for the value of artistic expression, but were “deeply troubled” by the display.

Full WPPA statement

“While we appreciate that the anti-law enforcement sentiment expressed in this piece represents the feelings of some, this ‘stormtrooper’ portrayal of police officers who appear to threaten a small child only serves to advance patently negative law enforcement stereotypes at the expense of the important and selfless jobs that our dedicated officers perform,” the statement says.

The organizations said they are not demanding the display be taken down, “as we do not view that as an appropriate response to this expression of speech.” They stay instead that they are “voicing the collective reaction of Madison’s officers who find this publicly-sponsored art display as offensive and indicative of terribly poor judgement.”

The display appears in the library with a statement from L’Roy, saying his second aim for the piece is to “empower black individuals who are feeling angry, forgotten and demonized by the mainstream narrative.”

“Art is a positive outlet for expression, emotion, and activism,” L’Roy said. “When viewing my piece, I challenge you to reflect on your identity and engage in meaningful, critical, and genuine dialogue with others about the social and political causes that have led to actions like the one depicted in “Don’t Shoot.””

Madison Central Library Director Greg Mickells tells News 3 the art piece was installed Tuesday as part of a partnership with the 100State organization.

He said library leadership had not seen the piece until it was installed, and upon seeing it knew there may be community concerns. He said the piece complies with the library’s art policy, and they asked the artist to post the explanation of the piece next to the canvas.

“We do not endorse the content of the artwork, but we are a platform for community conversations,” Mickells said.

He said he plans to invite Palmer to post a response next to the art piece.

It’s unclear how long the art installation may be posted.