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'New Yorker' Cover Targets NYPD

The New York Police Department sees The New Yorker magazine's cover illustration for its March 8 issue as the latest in a series of unfair attacks on it.

But whether you love it or hate it, one thing is clear: This cover art has struck a nerve, reports CBS News Correspondent Kristin Jeannette-Meyers.

"It is irresponsible, outrageous," said New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir.

Safir is infuriated by the cover, which shows a police officer at a carnival shooting gallery firing on targets shaped like people.

In the drawing, a sign says "41 shots 10 cents," alluding to the Feb. 4 killing of unarmed immigrant Amadou Diallo, who was hit by 19 of 41 bullets fired at him by four police officers.

Diallo's death sparked protests throughout the city about the perceived excessive use of force by police.

Art Spiegelman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning artist who created the cover, says it's a fair commentary on our times.

"At the moment, the perception in New York City is that one has as much to fear from police as one does from a mugger," Spiegelman says. "It's a perception. And this picture calls attention to that issue."

The irony is that in the past five years, police shootings in New York City have gone down 50 percent. However, the magazine cover shows that the police are fighting a very different perception.

"Well, I think the way it's portrayed, as if police officers were all cowboys, as if NYPD officers are out there shooting people indiscriminately and, you know, this defames the NYPD and I think it is really insensitive to the Diallo family as well," Safir says.

Jim Savage, acting president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said the artwork trivializes the good work police officers do.

"They're angry. This depicts cops as not really caring about the public they serve," Savage said. "It says that they can just pick off innocent people."

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Gov. George Pataki, both speaking in Albany, agreed with Savage.

"There's no excuse for a painting like that except that it betrays not only the prejudice of the person who did it but lots of people who tolerate it and who support it," Giuliani said.

Pataki said the Diallo shooting was a tragedy.

"But," he said, "that's not grounds to take a shot at the entire police department that's done so well."

Spiegelman, who won a Pulitzer for Maus, a comic book depiction of his parents' Holocaust experience, has stirred controversy before with New Yorker covers that showed a Hasidic Jew kissing a black woman and a business-suited Easter Bunny being crucified across a tax form.

"Every once in a while a cover goes over the top, and I'm grateful for that," he said. "I think images can help you locate a discussion."

Savage, the PBA head, said the shooting gallery cover has done nothing but infuriate police and reinforce ther distrust of the media.

Alarmed by the Diallo shooting, Michigan Congressman John Conyers wants the House Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on police brutality.