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Orange County Opinion : Keeping the Police Out of Politics

November 02, 1986

Open any campaign brochure, and there are lots of them floating around, and you're sure to find at least one picture of the candidate posing with some uniformed law enforcement officer. It quickly conveys to voters the image of being a tough, law-and-order hard-liner.

It's also illegal. It's against state law for an officer to participate in political activities of any kind while in uniform. That includes posing for pictures, on or off duty.

The law is a good one that some police officers have ignored and others have been duped into violating by politicians who take seemingly innocent pictures under routine circumstances that later show up in election campaigns.

The issue was raised recently in the Huntington Beach City Council race when a resident complained to the city and the district attorney's office.

One problem is that the state law carries no penalty. Another is that police associations often endorse candidates, who then pose with officers for campaign pictures.

Police and politics is a bad mix. If the candidates don't have the political restraint not to ask officers to violate the law, the officers should know better and avoid such situations. Failing that, voters can help put an end to the practice by complaining loudly to candidates who indulge in such photographic flimflam.

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