Propaganda police

Poetry 99
Hundreds of poets young and old answered the call of our short-poetry contest. Editors are reading through the entries, and we’ll announce the winners in the Nov. 13 issue.

I’m so glad the election is over. That’s not just because I’m pretty happy with the results, though that’s clearly a factor. Mostly I’m happy because I won’t have to wade through campaign agit-prop for another 18 months or so.

Locally, the last big salvo came over the weekend. The Chico Police Officers Association posted a YouTube video on Halloween, and Sunday evening (Nov. 2) the union’s president, Terry Moore, sent out an e-mail publicizing it:

“If you live, work or recreate in Chico, this presentation will interest you. If you have children or loved ones who spend time anytime at all here in Chico, and their safety is paramount to you, then definitely commit a short 5 minutes to watch this professionally prepared video.”

Starting with newspaper stories on recent violent incidents and following up with graphics and statistics, the piece declares that the Chico Police Department staffing is at a low while violent crime is rising. The city is less safe since the department lost 14.5 positions in this summer’s round of budget cuts; expect things to get even worse. The video ends with photos of the eight City Council candidates and an admonition to research their positions on police funding.

The video prompted me to hit reply—I asked Det. Moore six questions:

1) Who produced this?

2) Where did the statistics of calls for service and delayed response times come from? If from Chico PD, who cross-referenced and/or verified them?

3) Where did you get the stats about violent crime nationwide?

4) Since CPOA didn’t endorse any candidates, either before this video or in it, is its purpose to sway voters or to encourage the public to put pressure on the council regarding the labor contract being negotiated?

5) Regarding the contract talks, does the video suggest CPOA is concerned about the number of officers rather than “me too” pay and benefit increases? Or is CPOA pushing for both?

6) Does CPOA doubt the city’s budget crisis? If not—i.e. CPOA agrees the city has a budget crisis—where specifically does it recommend cuts in order to pay for additional officers?

This is the entire response I received Tuesday afternoon: “Evan, the CPOA stands behind the statistical information provided in the video which we posted on YouTube.”

Hmmm. In stating that violent crimes are up nationally, the video contradicts federal crime stats. (Plus, as City Manager Dave Burkland corrected Councilman Larry Wahl on election night, 14.5 positions were lost citywide; Chico PD lost seven.)

E-mailing Det. Moore back, I pointed out that this raises doubt about all the stats CPOA is standing by, and I offered another opportunity to answer my questions. By CN&R press deadline, he hadn’t done so.

That’s OK—he’s not obligated to speak to me. But it is in his best interest to explain his union’s stance to the public, since taxes pay the salaries that pay the dues, and the public is who he’s invited to “feel free to contact any one of the seven city of Chico council members and share your concerns with them.”

Consider these unanswered questions—and any of your own—before accepting rhetoric about “draconian cuts” and how “we all have a big problem.”