|Political Mud Slinging Begins - Link Fixed
October 3, 2008
I have repaired the link to the attachment. Click here for the hit piece.
Also, following is an article from the West County Times today on the hit piece.
From: Butt, Tom
The first hit piece of the Richmond Political season comes to you courtesy of the Richmond Police Officers Association. Click here for a copy. The flyer promotes the candidacies of Nat Bates and Chris Tallerico while trying to label Jovanka Beckles and Dr. Jeff Ritterman with “arrogant disrespect for public safety,” a charge for which there is no basis. The flyer erroneously states that Juan Reardon is the campaign manager for both Beckles and Ritterman, which also has no basis.
Regardless of how anyone feels about enforcement of certain laws (see Undocumented Immigrants and Driver's Licenses, September 22, 2008), there is no excuse for using the issue in such a blatantly racial manner. Even if the Richmond Police Officers Association is going to wallow in the mud of this campaign, we would at least expect them to do it accurately.
Richmond police union's political mailer draws fire from Latinos
Article Launched: 10/02/2008 07:25:50 PM PDT
That effort showed in a four-page political flier that appeared in mailboxes across Richmond this week, stuffed with arguments supporting a pair of City Council candidates who support checkpoints and excoriating two who do not.
The mailer, which loosely connects local efforts to curb unlicensed drivers with the violence of Latin American drug cartels, now earns strong condemnation from both supporters and opponents of the checkpoints for what many consider a racist attack.
For example: "A pile of 11 headless bodies was recently discovered in the on-going (sic) orgies of violence!"
Officer Kevin Martin, president of the Richmond Police Officers Association, says he's no racist. Rather, he said, the mailer seeks to expose Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and two council candidates she supports, Jovanka Beckles and Jeff Ritterman, for wanting "to identify a special class of people who are exempt from the rule of law."
"And that is wrong," Martin said. "I want to stress that the POA does not target or identify Latinos in any way, shape or form, and the checkpoints are not race-specific. But it is interesting that the only time they gain any notoriety is when we hold them on the west side of town," heavily populated by Latinos and blacks.
Checkpoints became a flashpoint in Richmond politics in the summer, as Latino groups increasingly complained that they disproportionately resulted in citations and impounded cars for Latino motorists, particularly undocumented immigrants, who cannot legally drive in California.
The mailer includes:
· The statement that "Most of the drugs sold in Richmond come across the Mexican border and are driven into Richmond by Latino drug dealers," according to a testimonial from Martin. Police Chief Chris Magnus said that statement lacks empirical support.
· An arrow pointing at Richmond on a map, with the phrases, "Mexican drug dealers," "Honduras (sic) drug dealers" and "El Salvadorian (sic) drug dealers." A handgun, cash and a pile of drugs sit beside the dot on the map.
· Statements describing Mexican drug cartel slayings, attacks on police and government bribes. "The 'Rule of Law' is at risk in Mexico!"
"How low can you go?" McLaughlin said. "These hit pieces — hate pieces — are a pathetic political tactic, and I don't think they will acquire their intended results. We need to elevate the civility of our discourse."
McLaughlin, who opposes the monthly checkpoints, recently requested data from the Police Department that show a large number of people with Hispanic surnames owned cars towed. Officers do not ask for or record the ethnicity of those cited, but local activists estimate that about 70 percent of the names were Hispanic.
The department maintains that it targets neither Latinos nor Latino neighborhoods. The checkpoints respond to a rise in hit-and-run crashes and other traffic safety problems stemming from a perceived rise in drivers lacking valid licenses, registration or insurance, Magnus said.
"I find many sections of the flier objectionable, offensive and without merit," Magnus said. "We have worked hard to build relationships with Richmond's many community groups. This is a step back. And it does not reflect most officers' views."
Magnus now worries that the mailer will hurt his department's efforts to communicate and collaborate with Latino constituencies on the checkpoints and other law enforcement issues affecting that community.
"We are saddened that this happened, and we just have to keep doing what we have been doing, working at mending relations between the department and the Latino community," said Officer Esteban Barragan, president of Richmond's Latino Peace Officers Association.
The mailer includes testimonials from Councilman Nat Bates and Police Commissioner Chris Tallerico, two council candidates endorsed by the RPOA. Others endorsed by the RPOA include incumbents John Marquez and Harpreet Sandhu.
"It's in your face, there's no doubt about it," said Tallerico, adding that he did not see the piece before it mailed. "It's no secret that drugs come into this city, and for the most part they arrive in vehicles. The law enforcement people I know ... they say the bulk of those drugs are coming from Mexico."
The piece links McLaughlin, Beckles and Ritterman to Green Party activist Juan Reardon, who demonstrates nearby when the department holds checkpoints, waving Spanish signs warning motorists away.
"(The flier) takes a complicated city problem and reduces it to an issue of race and ethnicity and creates an anti-immigrant feeling," Ritterman said. "Crime is a problem that is much more complicated than that and it's going to be solved by increasing job opportunities and educational opportunities."
Reardon worked as the unpaid manager of McLaughlin's campaign for mayor in 2006, but is no longer formally attached. The mailer purports he is also campaign manager for Ritterman and Beckles, which both say is not true.
"It is reassuring to know the voters will not be fooled by the politics of hate, division, fear and dirty tricks," Beckles said. "The Latino community is justifiably enraged, and the black community should be as well. In fact, anyone who respects the civil rights of others should be."
Staff writer Katherine Tam contributed to this article. Reach Karl Fischer at 510-262-2728 or firstname.lastname@example.org.