SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The union representing California prison guards posted pictures and video online of a new political ad announcing its intent to "target" South Los Angeles Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, obscuring the Black lawmaker's face with a bull's-eye - and drawing criticism that the image amounted to a threat.
The ad and a screenshot posted Wednesday by California Correctional Peace Officers Association President Glen Stailey were later removed, but pictures and copies of the video continue to circulate online.
The incident highlights mounting acrimony in Los Angeles and across the country between law enforcement and those who seek police reforms, and it comes days after two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies were ambushed by a gunman, leading Sheriff Alex Villanueva to warn that "words have consequences."
Jones-Sawyer, chairman of the state Assembly's public safety committee, said Thursday he is concerned that regardless of the organization's intent, the online image could lead to real-world violence.
"God forbid someone took that putting a target on me literally and were not stable and showed up at my home," he said. "In this environment ... you don't put a target on a person of color."
Jones-Sawyer - who condemned Saturday night's shooting of the two deputies, calling it a "cowardly act" - has long been a champion of criminal justice reform. He also recently voted in a favor of a new contract for CCPOA members that cuts their pay because of the state's economic crisis while providing additional paid time off each month.
The assemblyman is in a tight reelection race in the 59th District against fellow Democrat Efren Martinez, a public policy commissioner.
The CCPOA has long been a strong lobbying presence at the state Capitol and in campaigns and has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to dozens of legislators in recent years through independent expenditure committees. It has contributed $143,000 so far to Martinez's campaign through those channels, according to state records. A spokesman for Martinez did not immediately return a call for comment.
The union did not respond to a request for comment but sent a statement through a public relations agency.
"It would require a great stretch of the imagination to believe that we meant anything other than our clear intent, which was to demonstrate that we are mounting political campaigns against certain legislators," read the statement, which was attributed to Stailey. "However, to put this controversy to rest, we are removing the video from our official channels and editing it. We will not be deterred from our commitment to protect the interests of correctional officers by actively participating in political campaigns."