SACRAMENTO — A week before the primary election and nearly three weeks after a critical campaign commercial began airing, the Oakland police officers union demanded Tuesday that attorney general candidate Rocky Delgadillo yank the ad.
Delgadillo's commercial, the centerpiece of his $2-million final TV push against rival Democrat Jerry Brown -- Oakland's mayor and former California governor -- blames Brown for a murder spike in the San Francisco Bay Area city this year. The union says the ad slanders the Police Department and Brown.
Robert Valladon, Oakland Police Officers Assn. president, said in a letter to Delgadillo, the Los Angeles city attorney, that it was "unethical for a law enforcement official like you to deliberately distort facts about crime to get votes." Valladon called it "tragic that you would choose to slander" the department's rank and file "to advance your political career."
Delgadillo, in a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, refused to pull the ad and said his beef was with Brown, not Oakland police.
"I'll always support those who put on the badge," Delgadillo said, suggesting that the ad is "targeted at leadership, or a lack thereof, and a lack of courage" by Brown.
"What I said in the ad is accurate and should give everyone pause," Delgadillo said. "Jerry Brown has said he'll do for the state what he's done for Oakland. And I don't think we can afford to see that."
In the commercial, Delgadillo is shown walking in the East Los Angeles neighborhood where he grew up, talking about seeing "firsthand" what gangs can do and how he used civil injunctions as city attorney to fight gangs.
"My opponent, the mayor of Oakland, proposed cutting the police budget and eliminating the narcotics unit," Delgadillo intones in the ad as newspaper headlines flash on the screen. "Now murders have doubled."
The then-police chief disbanded Oakland's narcotics unit in 2002 after the team was rocked by scandal. The next year, Brown proposed citywide budget cuts that including slashing $6.4 million from police. Since then, the department's budget has grown and, in 2004, the narcotics unit was reestablished.
Despite the increased funding, Oakland's homicide rate for the start of this year has been nearly double that of 2005, with 56 murders as of Tuesday compared to 31 at the same point last year.
The union's anger at Delgadillo came to light Tuesday in a news release that was issued by the Brown campaign.
Valladon said Oakland police officers began complaining soon after the commercial first aired May 11.
"They just don't like the accusations being made about Jerry Brown," Valladon said Tuesday. "He's been good to us."
Valladon sent a letter to Delgadillo on May 23 asking that the ad be pulled and demanding a public apology. The letter would have been dispatched sooner, he said, but he first had to run it by the union's board members.
In the letter, Valladon said that claims in the ad that Oakland's murder rate had doubled contradicted the overall performance under Brown, whose seven years in office have seen homicides decline by about 28% compared to the previous seven years, dropping from an average of nearly 123 murders a year to 88.
Valladon also said the department's budget has jumped 56% since Brown took office. Brown, he said, has "consistently fought" for more police in Oakland, winning the support of the department's rank and file.
Ace Smith, Brown's campaign strategist, said Delgadillo "hasn't figured out" that the commercial doesn't just attack Jerry Brown. "He's attacking all those cops," he said.