Burbank police are moving to the front line in the campaign opposing the reelection of California Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird.
The 250-member Burbank Police Officers Assn., which includes rank-and-file officers and police management officials, has contributed $1,000 to Californians to Defeat Rose Bird, one of the major campaign organizations leading the opposition drive.
Organization officials said it was the first contribution from a local police association. They said other police groups since have donated smaller amounts.
A resolution drafted by the Burbank association says Bird's decisions are "soft on criminals," and that she has "no apparent compassion for the victims of crime."
Burbank Police Chief Glen Bell is one of 178 police chiefs statewide who will serve as co-chairmen of the Orange County-based organization.
'Couldn't Stay Out of Fight'
Sgt. Donald Brown, former president of the Burbank association, is hoping to convert even more law-enforcement personnel to the anti-Bird cause Friday when he addresses the California Organization of Police and Sheriffs, a statewide association of about 7,000 officers. It is the largest organization of police personnel in the state.
"Burbank came out and took a stand," Brown said. "It was the feeling of the association board that we could not stay out of this fight any longer. This issue affects us as taxpayers, as citizens and as members of this community."
Brown said the Burbank association voted unanimously in September to take $1,000 from members' dues and contribute it to the anti-Bird campaign.
"We were not solicited," Brown said in describing how the group decided to make the contribution. "It was what we wanted to do. It's a shame for the first time in the history of the state Supreme Court that we have to take a stand like this, but I feel good that we are being responsive to our members."
Californians to Defeat Rose Bird raised $2.5 million last year, and its leaders said they hope to increase that amount to $4 million for the campaign. The group plans to emphasize claims that Bird has refused to uphold the death penalty, which state voters approved in 1977, said Janet Byers, executive director of the organization.
Members also are angered by Bird's and the other justices' overturning of portions of such voter-approved initiatives as the Victims' Bill of Rights and the property-tax-slashing Proposition 13, Byers said.
But Bird's supporters said they were not worried about Burbank's involvement.
Steve Glazer, a spokesman for the Committee to Conserve the Courts, a campaign group formed by Bird, said the money from Burbank probably will be used in the same way that other anti-Bird funds were, "on staff overhead and fat-cat consultants."
But Byers said she was "ecstatic" with the support from Burbank. "The other police associations around the state haven't given nearly as much as Burbank did. Some sent $25, some sent $100, and several others are trying to raise money by selling T-shirts."
She said the money would be used to buy television and radio time to air commercials six to eight weeks before the reconfirmation vote in the November general election.
Brown said he was not sure what further role the Burbank organization will play in the anti-Bird campaign, "but we want to keep right on top of it."
He downplayed the plea he plans to make Friday to the California Organization of Police and Sheriffs to endorse the anti-Bird campaign, saying that organization may wish to adopt a different strategy concerning Bird.
"We'll just try and see what happens," he said.