Bay Area officer unions decry anti-police rhetoric

Law enforcement officers, some equipped with riot gear, waited to cross 24th Ave. S. as they left the MOA through the east parking entrance at Mall of America Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014, in Bloomington, Minn. The group Black Lives Matter Minneapolis had more than 3,000 people confirm on Facebook that they would attend. Attendance figures weren't immediately available. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Jim Gehrz)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — 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.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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