The president of the 900-member Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs and other law enforcement officials charged Tuesday that a 2-week-old organization calling itself the Professional Police and Sheriffs of California was set up as a campaign ploy to confuse voters.
With less than two weeks remaining before the Nov. 4 election, the organization's endorsements have been featured in campaign mail attacking Democratic state Assembly candidates in Orange, Los Angeles and Sonoma counties.
On Monday, voters in Orange County's 72nd Assembly District received a mailer from Republican Richard E. Longshore's campaign that featured an endorsement from the new group, which was officially organized Oct. 6, according to documents filed with the secretary of state's office in Sacramento. The organization has only 19 law-enforcement officers as members statewide, none of whom are from Orange County, according to its own leaders--a Santa Monica policeman and a Westminster attorney.
The Longshore mailer contained a slashing attack on Santa Ana Mayor Dan Griset, Longshore's Democratic opponent. Griset has been endorsed by all of the police associations in the district and the 30,000-member Peace Officers Research Assn. of Californias.
Other attack mail bearing the endorsement of the Police and Sheriffs of California surfaced this week in two races in Los Angeles County and one in Northern California. Those are contests between Republican Beverly Hansen and Democrat Mary Jadiker for the seat held by retiring Assemblyman Don Sebastiani (R-Sonoma) in the 76th District, between Republican Roger Fiola and Assemblyman Richard Floyd (D-Bellflower) in the 35th, and between Republican Henry J. Velasco and Assemblywoman Sally Tanner (D-El Monte) in the 80th.
"It's a sham," Jerry Pierson of the Orange County deputy sheriffs' group said of the Professional Police and Sheriffs of California. "They're trying to make people think that they represent thousands of law enforcement officials throughout the state, and they don't. It's being done deliberately to confuse voters at the last minute."
Longshore said Tuesday that he was simply happy to have the group's endorsement. "I needed it and welcomed it," he said.
The mail attacking Griset and other Democratic legislative candidates reproduced an endorsement letter signed by Bruce Cline, as president of the Professional Police and Sheriffs Assn. Cline, a Santa Monica policeman, is the son of former state Assemblyman Robert Cline (R-Northridge), a staunch conservative who gave up his seat in 1980 to run unsuccessfully for the state Senate.
Bruce Cline acknowledged that his group was formed two weeks ago specifically to influence the Nov. 4 election, but he said it also plans to be active in 1988 races. He said that other law enforcement organizations are not reflecting the true political beliefs of rank-and-file members.
"They are using their pull as labor organizations to endorse Democrats," Cline said. "We're working in certain campaigns, like the Bev Hansen race, to counter them."
Said Len Delaney, president of the 30,000-member, Sacramento-based Police Officers Research Assn.: "It appears to me that they are a right-wing, conservative group. . . . They have no track record in the state Capitol. Until now, we've never heard of them."
"I don't know who they are. . . . I've never come across them before," said Al Cooper, Sacramento-based lobbyist for the California Peace Officers Assn., a statewide umbrella group representing police chiefs, county sheriffs and their top management personnel.
Westminster attorney Shawn Steel said in a phone interview Tuesday that he represents the Professional Police and Sheriffs of California. Steel said he is a longtime Longshore supporter and acquaintance of Assemblyman John R. Lewis (R-Orange), who manages Assembly races for the Assembly GOP Caucus in Sacramento under Assembly Minority Leader Pat Nolan (R-Glendale). Steel said he first met Lewis when they were both members of Young Americans for Freedom, a campus activist group that attempted to counter anti-war demonstrations during the 1960s.
Steel said he had discussed the need for an organization to counter the "labor-oriented" police organizations with Lewis and several other Republican Party activists at several GOP social functions in recent years.
Said Lewis: "I heard there was a group trying to focus on law-and-order issues instead of pay and strike issues. I did not see the mail that went out."
Cline acknowledged that no candidates were interviewed before endorsement decisions made by his organization and that endorsements were based on requests from the candidates themselves, many of whom were interviewed and rejected by other law enforcement organizations.