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Indiana Cop Sells 'Breathe Easy Don't Break The Law' T-Shirts

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 16, 2014 11:10PM

An Indiana police officer, who also happens to own a uniform shop, has created a stir online for a T-shirt he designed that is a play on the “I can’t breathe” slogan which has become synonymous nationwide with the death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City Police officer Daniel Pantaleo.

Mishawaka, Indiana police officer Jason Barthel designed the T-shirt which reads “Breathe Easy: Don’t Break the Law” and is selling it at his business, South Bend Uniform Co.. Barthel told South Bend, Indiana CBS affiliate WSBT TV the shirt isn’t intended to antagonize people critical of police in the deaths of Garner, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri or Tamir Rice and John Crawford in Cleveland. Scores of people across the country have taken to wearing “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts at demonstrations, and athletes including NBA players LeBron James and Derrick Rose have donned the T-shirts during recent pre-game shootarounds.

Barthel said his T-shirt design is intended to unite rather than divide.

We're here to protect the public and we want you to breathe easy knowing that the police are here to be with you and for you and protect you.

That sly answer may fly in northern Indiana but online the T-shirt design has drawn backlash for its tone-deafness and circle-the-wagons mentality police have had towards the protests across the country. Meanwhile, three members of the South Bend Common Council and the head of the South Bend NAACP have asked area stores to not sell the T-shirts, calling them "divisive."

Barthel responded to the criticism on South Bend Uniform Co.'s Facebook page, doubling down on the tone deafness in the process.

For those upset, please understand when we use the slogan "Breathe Easy" we are referring to knowing the police are there for you! We are one people, one nation regardless of race, religion, creed or gender. We are all in this together. The police are here to protect and serve. 99.9% of us have the greater good in our hearts each time we strap on our uniforms and duty belts. We are all one people and this is by no means is a slam on Eric Garner or his family, God rest his soul. Lets all band together as AMERICANS regardless of our feelings and know we can and will be better! Thank you for your support.

Maybe if Barthel's design read "Breathe Easy, We're Here For You" or something similar, there wouldn't be a backlash. But this isn't the first time we've seen questionable police T-shirts.




Maybe instead of feeling butthurt at the protests across the country, police can do something about improving their communication with the citizens they're supposed to protect and serve. Things like not choke someone to death, shoot an unarmed man or kill a teen who was holding a BB gun.