Pr. George's Police Union Takes on Budget Cuts in Ad Campaign
For anyone that needed reminders of how little love the Prince George's police union has for the county's current political leadership, they can be found plastered all over Metro buses, posters and billboards for the next month.
Starting Thursday, a near-six-figure ad campaign sponsored by the county's Fraternal Order of Police will begin to roll out, in the hopes of raising awareness of the potential impact of any cutbacks on law enforcement. The ads were paid for by union dues.
One of the ads--reminiscent of Hillary Clinton's famous "3 a.m." ad (video) during the presidential primary--depicts a worried woman on the phone, with text that reads, "WHAT IF YOU CALLED 911 AND WE HAD NO ONE TO SEND?" Another shows a police officer with folded arms, with text reading, "WE WANT TO BE THERE FOR YOU. Do you really want to give that up? DON'T LET COUNTY OFFICIALS CONTINUE TO CUT POLICE FUNDING."
The ads are referring to a series of government-wide cost-cutting measures the county has put in place in an attempt to deal with lagging revenues due to the recession--everything from a hiring freeze to trims of vacant positions to cuts to the county-wide budget. Some measures, like furloughs, landed the county in federal court, where a judge ruled one of their furlough plans unconstitutional. Others, like recent layoffs, drew fire from critics who said the county should have tapped its $182-million rainy-day fund rather than letting workers go.
Though the cuts have been spread across multiple county agencies--and the layoffs have not yet touched any sworn police officers--FOP president Vince Canales says any layoffs affect county police in some way, because financial stress can lead some to commit crimes.
"All these layoffs have some kind of indirect impact on us as well," Canales said. "When you consider you're talking about people dealing with financial issues...people taking desperate measures to try to make ends meet... in the end the police department is still involved."
Canales said the ads are also a signal that further cutbacks--especially as a result of continued cuts in state aid--will not be tolerated, and that candidates for office in 2010 should be aware that the public safety unions intend to get their messages out during the campaigns.
"We want to be a major player in that," Canales said. "We've attempted in the past to do things the old-fashioned way with relationships with elected officials. In some ways, that's been fruitful, but in other ways, it's been like beating your head against the wall."
--By Jonathan Mummolo and John Wagner
October 15, 2009; 8:30 AM ET
Categories: 2010 Elections , Jonathan Mummolo , Maryland State Budget , Prince George's County
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