Crime & Justice

Bay Area police unions decry growing anti-police sentiment

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 21: A memorial of candles and flowers in front of the New York Police Department's (NYPD) 84th Precinct on December 21, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NYPD officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, of the 84th Precinct were killed execution style on December 20 as they sat in their marked police car on a Brooklyn street corner. The suspect, identified as 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley who allegedly shot ex-girlfriend in Baltimore earlier in the day, was apparently motivated by the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. According to police, Brinsley shot himself in the head on the subway platform and was transported to Brooklyn Hospital where he was pronounced dead.  (Photo by Michael Graae/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 21: A memorial of candles and flowers in front of the New York Police Department's (NYPD) 84th Precinct on December 21, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NYPD officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, of the 84th Precinct were killed execution style on December 20 as they sat in their marked police car on a Brooklyn street corner. The suspect, identified as 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley who allegedly shot ex-girlfriend in Baltimore earlier in the day, was apparently motivated by the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. According to police, Brinsley shot himself in the head on the subway platform and was transported to Brooklyn Hospital where he was pronounced dead. (Photo by Michael Graae/Getty Images)
Michael Graae/Getty Images

Presidents of the three biggest Northern California police unions have published an open letter warning that recent anti-police rhetoric and sentiments are threatening officers' safety.

The letter was published Tuesday on the unions' Web sites and social media pages. It was signed by the heads of unions representing police in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.

The letter said recent protests across the country started as "legitimate expressions of views" over police shootings and the killing of unarmed black suspects in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York.

"The reaction is not unexpected but the vilification of front-line public servants by some politicians and media pundits has been demoralizing and unjust," said the letter signed by San Jose's Paul Kelly, San Francisco's Martin Halloran and Oakland's Barry Donelan.

The letter doesn't identify any politician or media pundit. It was written three days after two New York City police officers were shot and killed by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who later killed himself. Before ambushing the officers, Brinsley posted messages on social media that said he was angry over the failure to indict white police officers accused of killing unarmed black men.

The San Francisco Bay Area union heads said recent demonstrations against police brutality have devolved from legitimate free speech expressions to tasteless vilification of officers. The letter also took exception to protester chants calling for dead police officers.

Protests persist in the region. On Wednesday, about 200 people blocked neighborhood streets in San Francisco's Castro District to protest what they call systemic police violence toward minorities.

The letter didn't call for a halt to the protests. Instead, the police unions called on protesters "to engage in constructive dialogue that calls for a common sense approach to very complex issues."