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Police Union Endorses Negrete, Melkonians, Gielicz

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By Jorge Casuso

September 7, 2022 -- Santa Monica's two public safety unions -- which have traditionally endorsed the same City Council candidates and backed them with ample war chests -- will not be in lockstep this year.

After sitting out the 2020 race, the Santa Monica Police Officers Association (POA) announced Wednesday it is backing Councilmember Lana Negrete, resident activist Armen Melkonians and Recreation and Parks Commissioner Albin Gielicz in the November 8 race for three Council seats.

The announcement came five days after the Firefighters union endorsed Negrete and Melkonians, as well as Rent Board Commissioner Caroline Torosis, a front-runner in the race ("Firefighters Endorse Negrete, Melkonians, Tororis for Council," September 2, 2022).

In a statement issued Wednesday, Police Union President Gerardo Leyva praised the candidates for their pro-law enforcement stances.

“We must elect policy makers that make public safety a priority, and Lana, Armen, and Albin are committed to providing the Santa Monica Police Department with the resources we need to keep our community safe,” Leyva wrote.

The POA, which had endorsed Negrete on Monday, said the Councilmember "works with residents to activate public spaces to keep them clean and safe for local families and uses her role on the council to facilitate law enforcement and community connections."

Melkonians, the union said, "is committed to increasing police personnel to facilitate and increase the visibility of our officers."

While Gielicz "shares Armen’s commitment to increased public safety funding and has pledged to create public messaging to deter crime in our community."

The omission of Torosis is due to to her liberal stance on law enforcement. While the POA does not make its candidate interviews public, Torosis made her positions clear in the Democratic Club's candidate questionnaire posted on the group's website.

She expressed "support of a strong Police Civilian Oversight Commission with a complaint review board to ensure that our Police Department has multiple layers of accountability."

She also supports shifting funding for armed police response to mental health workers when appropriate and backs LA County District Attorney George Gascon's special directives on restorative justice.

"I believe that we must stay the course if we are to reduce our epidemic of mass incarceration," Torosis wrote.

Her responses to the Democratic Club's questionnaire were a stark contrast to those of Melkonians.

"It is long past time that the sworn force levels be significantly, and permanently, expanded to appropriately address these greatly increased, and inherently more dangerous, public safety threats," Melkonians wrote.

"I am opposed to reallocating police monies to other services. I am strongly opposed to the defund the police movement."

Negrete and Gielicz did not submit responses to the Democratic Club's questionnaire.

Both the Police and Firefighters unions have raised more than $100,000 each to back their chosen candidates, according to the latest campaign finance disclosure statements filed with the City Clerk.

As of June 30, the Police union PAC had $108,061 on hand, while the Firefighters union had $133,591.

The 2020 Council race was the first time the Firefighters union made an endorsement independent of the POA, which sat out the election after coming under fire for the police response to the May 31 Santa Monica riots.

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