UNION CITY — The police officers union is taking aim at City Council candidate Ben Elias, who union brass accuse of sending out a campaign mailer last week filled with inaccuracies about the department.

In the mailer, Elias charged that the City Council uses "tax payers money and our trained police officers to serve as security guards for Union Landing."

Elias added: "I will make sure the Union Landing and Wal-Mart owners pay their fair share of the cost for police services."

However, in 2004, when Elias was still on the council, Union Landing property owners agreed to form a Business Improvement District and tax themselves to pay for dedicated police officers and a substation.

The district collected roughly

$450,000 last year, which completely

paid for the three officers assigned to patrol the shopping center, city Administrative Services Director Rich Digre said.

Seizing on that, the union, which Elias said endorsed his three opponents without ever contacting him, fired off a letter bashing the mailer. "Mr. Elias is playing on the fears of our community," wrote union heads Bruce Vance and Chuck Tonnacliff.

Elias, who as a councilman in 2004 made the motion to approve the Business Improvement District, said he was aware that the property owners paid for police service. However, he said he

was under the impression that $450,000 wasn't enough to pay for all three officers and that, in any event, more officers are needed there.


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"They need at least six or more police officers in Union Landing," Elias said, noting that the complex gets 12percent of the city's calls for service.

The three officers now handle the bulk of the work at the shopping complex, Capt. Greg Stewart said. "Without doing a pretty significant workload study, it's difficult to say it merits more officers," he said.

The union also said Elias' claim on the mailer that total calls for service at Union City schools jumped 84.54 percent, from 815 in 2004 to 1,504 in 2005.

The statistic is posted on the city's Web site, but it is the result of a new dispatch system implemented in January 2005, not a jump in school crimes, Lt. Jim Bizieff said.

The new system marks every time a school resource officer reports for duty as a call for service, Bizieff said. At Logan High School, for instance, there were 590 more calls for service in 2005 than in 2004 — of which 309 were just the school resource officer clocking in to work.

Also, Bizieff said, the new system tends to classify traffic stops made on streets adjacent to schools as school-related calls for service.

Elias isn't buying the idea that the new system accounted for the entire surge in calls for service at schools last year and questioned why the department was publishing statistics it knew were skewed.

"If the statistics are wrong, why did they submit them to the council and ask that they hire more officers?" he asked.

The contracts of the police and fire unions, which comprise about three-quarters of city employees, are set to expire in June.

Elias, who has the support of the firefighters union, said the police union is playing politics with him.

"They know I'm not supportive of a new police station and that I want to look at their pension plans," he said. "They're going to come after me."

Staff writer Matthew Artz can be reached at (510) 353-7003.