By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
On the 40th anniversary of the murder of two FBI agents, Washington State is honoring the art of the two agents’ killer. It is a shameful and dishonorable act that highlights the man who took the lives of two young law enforcement officers and an affront to their families who have for forty years endured resurrection of this killer in the news with little mention of the fallen officers.
Last Thursday I read of a Native American art exhibit being held at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries headquarters in Tumwater, Washington. Being a fan of Native American art I travelled to the agency to review the artwork. To my dismay in the main rotunda of the state agency’s offices I saw four paintings from Leonard Peltier along with cards reading how to contact Mr. Peltier’s gallery for purchases of his works. I am familiar with his art and these works are consistent with his style of painting.
Leonard Peltier is currently serving two consecutive life sentences for the 1975 murder of FBI Agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams at the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Now, we have a situation where a government agency is promoting the art of this convicted cop killer, which is only certain to generate controversy in the Law Enforcement Community along with the families of those who have lost their loved ones. The State of Washington is sponsoring a murderer’s artwork and providing free advertisements toward its purchase. I view this as highly unethical and a strong conflict of interest. The State of Washington should not be in the business of helping convicted cop killers profit while in prison. It is an insult to the families of agents Coler and Williams and those who have served in the profession.
The great irony of this affair is that the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries is the agency charged with paying benefits to police officers injured on the job and to also administer the Washington State Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund.
In 1975 FBI Agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams were attempting to question a man suspected of a theft at the Pine Ridge Reservation. A brief informational of the murder may be read here. Execution would be a closer representation of how these agents died. Mr. Peltier was later found in Oregon where he allegedly fired on an Oregon law enforcement officer. Officials found Agent Coler’s handgun in Peltier’s vehicle.
A video dedicated to these agents’ service, along with narration from family members may be seen here.
I do take great exception to Washington State’s actions. The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) not only hosted the exhibition of Mr. Peltier’s paintings, but made announcements on L&I webpages and composed flyers showing its support of the artwork. Moreover, each of the paintings had a card naming the artist and where to purchase his works. In other words L&I is acting as an agent to advertise a convicted murder’s works where he or his agents will receive revenue and sales as an intended result.
Mr. Peltier has become somewhat of a cause célèbre among Hollywood actors and celebrities convinced that he is innocent. Regardless of this, and the fact that he has genuine artistic skill in his own right, I find this rather insulting to the police community. But for a government agency to display his works and solicit ways for him or his agents to gain money during his incarceration violates ethical constraints of government and the spirit of preventing criminals from profiting from their crimes or incarceration.
Labor and Industries should remove Mr. Peltier’s artwork and refrain from freely promoting incarcerated cop killers or economically supporting their ventures.
Here are some of the pictures I took of the display. The first shows the official flyer having a picture of Mr. Peltier within a prison facility.
Note: The information on the black wall is for another artist, not Mr. Peltier.
Those having questions about this display may contact the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, or telephone their switchboard at (360) 902-5800.
Please honor Ron Williams, Jack Coler and their loving families.
By Darren Smith
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation
Photo Credits: Own work, released to the public domain.
The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.