The Salt Lake mayoral race is creating a clear division in the ranks of the city's police department.
To wit: Stuart Reid has the support of Police Chief Ruben Ortega and upper police department management (captains and lieutenants). And on Thursday, the Salt Lake Police Association, representing the 325 officers below the rank of sergeant, formally endorsed Rocky Anderson."This endorsement was well-earned," said union chief David Greer. "His commitment to the safety of the community, as well as to the men and women of the police force who are out on the streets every day risking their lives, is clear."
Reid's campaign manager, Caroline Roemer, noted that there were about 55 officers at the meeting where the union voted to endorse Anderson and that about seven of those voted against the endorsement.
"This is not representative of all the officers," she said.
But Greer noted that the union's bylaws require only 15 present to conduct business and that 55 was actually a pretty good turnout. "If we had to have 300 there, we would never get anything done."
Ortega's relationship with his troops has long been strained, and Greer acknowledged that Reid's promise to keep Ortega on if elected was a factor in the endorsement. Anderson has vowed to fire Ortega if elected.
Nevertheless, Greer said he believes Anderson would be a greater advocate for public safety in general and for the civil rights of police officers in particular.
Roemer, on the other hand, said it's all about Ortega and Ortega only.
"That's all it comes down to for David Greer: getting rid of Ruben Ortega," she said.
Anderson, an attorney, has taken on many high-profile civil-rights cases in the past, many of which, ironically, have been against the city and the police department.
Greer said that shows Anderson will watch out for the rights of rank-and-file officers. But Roemer says Greer felt differently five years ago. She cited a 1994 newspaper article detailing a police brutality suit where Anderson was representing the complainant in which Greer referred to Anderson as a "shyster lawyer."
"(Greer) is willing to sell himself down the river just to rid himself of a chief of police that the majority of people in this city support," Roemer said.
More than any mayoral campaign in the past 20 years, this one has politicized, and polarized, the police department even though internal regulations prohibit police officers, including Ortega, from engaging in political activity in their official capacities.
Greer was careful Thursday to wear a suit and tie instead of a uniform. Last month, Ortega took out a full-page newspaper ad, paid from his own pocket, supporting Reid. In that ad, Ortega also appeared in generic coat and tie but identified himself as the chief of police.
Ortega has characterized Anderson's stance on law and order as simply trying to dismantle what Ortega has accomplished in the past six years and making "laughable, unrealistic statements," such as parking a trailer in the street in front of every drug house.
During the primary, Reid won the endorsement of the largest union of city employees, AFCME, which includes all but police and fire employees. He has proposed a liaison between the mayor's office and the police union to better relations, but Greer said it would merely add another layer of administration and hurt instead of help.