Infuriated by Mayor Maureen O'Connor's refusal to condemn the rap song "Cop Killer," the head of San Diego's police labor union has accused the mayor of failing to help officers during her six years in office "except for a few public relations stunts."
The startlingly candid letter from Harry O. Eastus reminded O'Connor that she has benefited from having as many as four full-time police officers assigned to her as bodyguards during recent death threats, a "ratio of police to citizens not enjoyed by any other San Diegans."
Eastus took O'Connor to task for supporting a public review board more stringent than the one approved by voters in 1988, for not increasing the officers-to-population ratio to an "appreciable" level and for opposing a November ballot initiative to hire more police.
"Except for a few public relations stunts," Eastus wrote, "you have not taken a leadership role in solving the real, everyday issues of policing required to make our citizens safe. The citizens of San Diego are not safer in their homes and on their streets than they were when you took office."
Last month, O'Connor voted with two other council members against the police union's request to write a letter to Time Warner's president urging that he "discontinue the selling or marketing of music that encourages or glorifies the killing of police officers." Other governmental bodies have written such letters following the release of the song "Cop Killer" by rapper Ice-T and marketed by Time Warner. (Ice-T has since asked Time Warner to withdraw from stores the album containing song.)
Refusing to join the six other council members who supported the protest to Time Warner, O'Connor said that although she was opposed to music that glorified the killing of officers, she nonetheless did not want to be the "arbiter of First Amendment rights."
The San Diego Police Officers Assn., which represents nearly all of the department's 1,850 officers, sent letters expressing disappointment to O'Connor and Councilwomen Abbe Wolfsheimer and Valerie Stallings.
In a letter to Eastus defending her record, O'Connor said her support for San Diego police is well-documented, including a police budget increase from $91 million in 1986 to $163 million now and an increase in police officers per thousand population from 1.5 to 1.62.
"Compared to the sorry state of affairs I inherited when I assumed the office of mayor," O'Connor wrote Eastus, "SDPD today is highly respected throughout the community, has a better ratio of officers to residents, is exceptionally well equipped, is better paid and is more thoroughly trained."
Citing a long list of accomplishments under her tenure, O'Connor said the average police salary has increased from $30,516 to $45,038, a 200-bed city jail has opened, a new DNA lab and communications dispatch center were acquired and new physical fitness and human relations training programs have been put in place.
"On every issue of importance, save the blatant attack on Constitutional liberties for which you have taken me to task, I have been there for the SDPD, not just in council chambers but out in the streets when times were tense and tough," O'Connor wrote.
Highlighting her 1989 meeting with then Gov. George Deukmejian in which O'Connor asked for $34 million after declaring a local state of emergency because of gang- and drug-related violence, the mayor said the city put $10 million toward the problem after the state balked.
In his Aug. 4 letter responding to O'Connor's accomplishments, Eastus called the "state of emergency" one of the mayor's "public relation stunts."
Other council members and city administrators, not O'Connor, were chiefly responsible for the city jail, the communications system and other "capital items," Eastus said. As for money, the Police Department ranks in the middle of other city agencies getting the largest percentage of the city's budget, Eastus said.
"The view of the San Diego police officers is that you, personally, have emphasized soft expenditures of city budget funds to the detriment of the need to make our streets safe," the union president wrote O'Connor.
In an interview Friday, Eastus said O'Connor has used budget figures to bolster her position that she has been supportive of police but in reality, she has not emphasized public safety nearly enough.
By raising the issue of her police bodyguards, Eastus said he supports police protection in light of death threats against elected officials but "there have been occasions when they're just baby-sitting her house," Eastus said. "If she's talking about officer ratios to populations, she's got the best."
The "Cop Killer" song amounts to a similar death threat, Eastus wrote the mayor, and when officers were threatened "in the form of a song designed to impress our already troubled teen population, you would not even lend your voice to those decrying that conduct."