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ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE

Police Work, Not Fund-Raising

September 12, 1996

The Orange County Sheriff's Advisory Council has raised millions for important law enforcement projects since its inauguration more than a dozen years ago, but it should not use on-duty sheriff's deputies in that effort.

Last month the county Board of Supervisors voted to let Sheriff's Department employees use county facilities and their own time to enlist support for the advisory council. That merely ratified a long-standing informal practice, but it was a mistake in judgment nonetheless. County taxpayers rightly expect deputies, when they don their uniforms, to devote themselves full-time to normal policing duties.

A high-ranking department official said on-duty efforts for the advisory council had been limited and would not include door-to-door solicitations or asking the public for funds over the telephone. Only indirect assistance is allowed, he said, such as a lieutenant helping the council organize a charity golf tournament. But even that is too much.

Such fund-raising is especially out of line when the council gets involved politically, as it did in urging support for a 1993 statewide sales tax to benefit law enforcement and for the failed 1995 proposal for a sales tax increase to help bail the county out of the bankruptcy.

Last month's highly unusual vote by the Board of Supervisors sets a bad precedent, opening the door to diverting other county workers from their jobs in behalf of other causes. Fund-raising campaigns should be conducted off duty, on a worker's own time. Politicians are barred by law from using county facilities or on-duty staff in political campaigns. That prohibition should extend to all agencies and causes.

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