Santa Ana police officers are upset over a letter sent to their homes by a neighborhood group and will seek a restraining order today to prevent further disclosure of their addresses, a spokesman for the officers said.
The mailer, sent to police officers this week by the Washington Square Neighborhood Assn., criticized the police association’s endorsement for City Council of Rick Norton, who until last year operated a swap meet at Santa Ana Stadium, across the street from the neighborhood’s edge.
The swap meet was shut down by the City Council last year after residents complained that it created traffic, noise, litter and crime.
Don Blankenship, president of the Santa Ana Police Benevolent Assn., said that officers were calling him Thursday to tell him that they were worried that their addresses had somehow been made available to the public.
“It’s just the fact that their address is known,” Blankenship said. “These guys work some heavy offenders, and they’re worried about their families while they’re gone.”
But Tom Lutz, president of the neighborhood group, said no member of the group ever saw the addresses. The group sent a letter to Blankenship, expressing their dismay over the association’s endorsement of Norton, Lutz said, but let Councilman Dan Griset, a Washington Square resident and Norton’s chief opponent in the Ward 5 council race (Laurel Ruth Stephens is also running), send out the letters to the officers.
“We wanted to make sure it got to the rest of the members,” Lutz said. “We asked Dan if he knew how to do that, and he said he would take care of it because of confidentiality and all that. We gave him a copy of the letter, and he mailed them out.”
Griset, an insurance agent, said it was his idea to mail the letters to the officers because he was sure Blankenship would not distribute copies to them. He had his secretary address about 300 envelopes to police officers, using a list of city employees he obtained from the city Personnel Department, he said, and then personally mailed the letters.
Griset and three other members of the council--Mayor Dan Young, Vice Mayor Patricia A. McGuigan and Councilman Wilson B. Hart--have been at odds with the police officers’ group for more than a year over wage and staffing issues, and the officers’ political action committee is working to defeat all four of them in the November election.
“This notion that there’s been any violation of privacy is baseless,” Griset said. “At no time did the information of police officers’ addresses ever leave my possession. . . . I respect the police officers too much to ever think of compromising their safety.”
Griset charged that Blankenship “is attempting to whip up hysteria over groundless accusations.”
But Blankenship said he does not believe Griset. And even if he is telling the truth, Blankenship said, he should not have used the list of home addresses for political purposes.
“We don’t want his political mail,” he said. “We don’t want any birthday cards, and we don’t want him to sell us insurance, either. He’s got to use them (the addresses) for a legitimate purpose, and these are not legitimate purposes.”
The association is seeking a restraining order in Orange County Superior Court “to ensure that personal information . . . will not be released or improperly used by the city, the Police Department or City Council members,” Blankenship said.