Killer Cop's Patron Backs Brown

Steven Greenhut: Attorney General Jerry Brown, despite his history of taking anti-establishment political positions, has been strangely silent on issues of police abuse, especially in his home city of Oakland. He was mostly mum during the case of Johannes Mehserle, the BART cop who shot to death Oscar Grant in a BART station. Grant appeared to be submissive and face down and Mehserle shot him to death — and later claimed during his trial that he thought he was using a Taser. That always struck me as a concocted story, but it was good enough for the jury. Imagine what would have happened had this not been videotaped, which no doubt explains why police are now arresting people who videotape them.

Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and is awaiting sentencing, which is basically a slap on the wrist for someone who pointlessly killed a young man. This was really a horrific case and yet it showed the mentality of those police unions and police defenders who defend even the worst among them. Even when a member of the public is face down and is shot to death by a police officer, this crowd backs the cop. Go figure.

Well, I heard a radio ad today from Ron Cottingham of the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), a police union organization, advocating Brown as the law enforcement choice for governor. PORAC, a Democratic-oriented union, paid the legal defense for Grant’s killer.

Given that Brown’s pension reform ideas are arguably more serious than Meg Whitman’s (provided one believes either of them), one could almost make the case that he might be a better choice than Whitman. One pension reformer I know believes Brown will at least be able to stand up to the unions whereas Whitman — who emphasized this week that she will not touch the bulk of the pension problem because she will not reform police or fire pensions — will be able to accomplish nothing on this issue. Frankly, I don’t think either of them will do anything. But just when I thought Brown might not be that much worse than a principle-lacking big-government Republican, along comes this ad to remind us that Brown is soft on police abuse — or at least some friends of abusive cops are soft on him.

It also reminds us that ultimately Brown is a big phony — he likes to take interesting positions that sometimes defy conventional wisdom and lead people to believe that he’s a principled “progressive,” but at his heart he is just another power-craving politician who will say and do anything to get elected and ally himself with any special interest groups that might help him.

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