Blagojevich says Ryan insulted police –

Blagojevich says Ryan insulted police — FOP leaders bristle at


SPRINGFIELD – Fraternal Order of Police leaders said Tuesday their group’s endorsement of Democrat Rod Blagojevich for governor wasn’t unanimous, but they bristled at accusations from the camp of Republican candidate Jim Ryan that they are “union bosses” who sold out their members.

“That’s disrespectful, and it’s wrong,” Blagojevich said at a Statehouse news conference to announce the backing of the law enforcement group, which has more than 34,000 members. “People who put their lives on the line every day to protect us and protect our families and protect our communities deserve better than insults from Jim Ryan.”

Some member organizations of the state FOP are union groups, state president Ted Street said, but other statewide members are not in any union. He called the statewide FOP lodge a professional organization, not a union.

Ryan spokesman Dan Curry said the endorsement indicates “all that is good about law enforcement succumbed to all that is bad about union bosses.”

The FOP endorsed the Democratic statewide ticket, including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Springfield and all six candidates for state constitutional office – including state Sen. Lisa Madigan of Chicago over Republican Joseph Birkett, the DuPage County state’s attorney, for attorney general.

Asked whether the group was concerned that it might not get legislation through the Illinois House, where Madigan’s father, Michael, is speaker, if she were not endorsed, Street said her father’s post “was a consideration.”

“That factor was one of several factors, but not the predominant factor, in my decision-making,” Street said, adding that no promises or threats were made about legislation.

Melissa Merz, spokeswoman for Lisa Madigan, said that while Birkett has worked with police, “today’s endorsement . . . shows that the people who know Joe Birkett the best have chosen to support Senator Madigan as Illinois’ next attorney general.”

Curry said both Lisa Madigan and Blagojevich have little law enforcement experience. Both, he said, “are the products of a Chicago machine that is manipulating organized labor leadership to produce illogical endorsements.”

Street acknowledged that Ryan does have some support among the FOP’s rank-and-file.

Unscientific polls were taken of members in nine of the FOP’s 17 statewide regions of the group, Street said, and in six of those regions, majorities backed Ryan. Two of the three groups where polling showed support for Blagojevich were the Chicago FOP and Illinois State Police, he said.

“Polling is only one element of the endorsement procedure,” Street said.

While he said either Blagojevich or Ryan would probably make a good governor, he also said Blagojevich presented more-detailed plans.

Some FOP officials thought Ryan’s message “was unclear and not definitive,” and some were concerned that Ryan had not been aggressive in investigating allegations of corruption in state government, Street said.

The fact that Blagojevich is leading in most polls was “only one of maybe two dozen criteria that we considered,” Street added.

Blagojevich’s plans include establishing a grant program to let local police departments hire 1,000 new officers. He also wants to improve access to lifesaving equipment such as bulletproof vests and ensure adequate pensions. He estimated the cost of those improvements at $20 million to $35 million annually and said he could cut other wasteful spending to pay for them.

Blagojevich said he favors keeping the moratorium on the death penalty for the time being. Street said his group opposes the moratorium, but that is not one of the organization’s top priorities.

Copyright 2002

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.