The San Diego Police Officers Association on Sunday called for Democratic mayoral candidate Ed Harris to apologize for comments he made during a debate in which he referred to officers as “storm troopers” for their actions at a Donald Trump rally last month.
At a debate Friday on NBC San Diego, Harris was critical of the Police Department’s move into Barrio Logan after the protests, which had started at the Convention Center.
“It’s not responsible, it’s not respectful marching into Barrio Logan when people come out of their house because they hear the storm troopers coming down the street,” Harris said during the televised debate.
The San Diego Police Officers Association, which has endorsed Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer, voiced displeasure.
“This term villainizes our officers and belittles the sacrifices they make to keep the public safe,” the police union said in a statement. “In addition, a mayoral candidate disparaging our officers will only make it more difficult to attract quality police officers who have a desire to serve their fellow citizens.”
“We ask that Mr. Harris apologize for his statement and urge all candidates to refrain from such irresponsible rhetoric in the future.”
Harris said in a statement Sunday that as a city lifeguard he has the “utmost respect” for San Diego police officers. He added that his brother is a Los Angeles police officer, his sister worked for the La Paz County Sheriff’s Department in Arizona and his mother worked as a dispatcher for 30 years in Orange County.
“My reference was solely aimed at the poor management decision to send armored police and vehicles into the Barrio Logan neighborhood — a mile away from the protest,” Harris said.
Some members of the Barrio Logan community held a news conference to complain about their treatment by police after the Convention Center rally, while others pointed to the police response as a model for the rest of the nation in handling large-scale protests.
“We believe our police department correctly followed standard procedures for an event like this and that our officers balanced the protesters rights of free speech and assembly with the protection of property and physical safety of community members,” the union statement continued.
“We commend our officers, and department leadership for the professional manner in which this event was managed.”
The rally for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Trump on May 27 was attended by thousands of supporters, with thousands of protesters assembled outside the venue.
“We would also encourage that this event not be utilized as a political tool to disparage our police officers or other community leaders. Any protest has the potential to grow violent, and those officers who put themselves in the midst of this potential danger deserve recognition for their dedication. They don’t deserve to be utilized as props for the advancement of political agendas,” the statement said.
“Specifically, we condemn Mayoral candidate Ed Harris’ characterization of our police officers as “stormtroopers.”
Harris, a Democrat, is challenging the incumbent Faulconer in the Tuesday primary election.