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This Wrong Undermines Their Right

Angelenos can’t believe that their hard-working police officers would resort to this. The billboard ads--22 of them plastered around town--as ugly as graffiti and dumber than running a red light in front of a black-and-white. They depict the stereotypical carjacking--the hooded thief pointing a gun at the terrified woman--and, in bright red, “WARNING: THIS CAN BE YOU WITHOUT THE POLICE DEPARTMENT.”

Why would the police union go this sleazy route? Because the police are terribly frustrated and angry. They have been through two years of hell--from the Christopher Commission upbraiding to the Los Angeles riots--and for two years they have been working without a contract. They feel the city gives them no respect: No raise for them, but utility workers landed a three-year 9% hike.

The anger is understandable and the position is incontestable: The police deserve a raise, perhaps more than most people. Even Mayor Richard Riordan, faced with bone-wearying budget problems, agrees and says officers should make more.

The police have every First Amendment right to air their side of a labor dispute, but anger is no justification for trashing their own city. The hotel and restaurant workers did this by distributing a very negative videotape about Los Angeles around the country. Then the teachers union considered that tactic--but in the end dropped the idea. Now the cops, billboards ablaze, are threatening to distribute their own trashing-L.A. videotape. This is simply wrong.

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