Campaign ad questioned by Lakeland Police Chief

Posted: October 14, 2010 by The STR in NEWS & LOCAL NEWS, Political NEWS & VEIWS
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Lakeland, Florida — One local police department is firing back at a campaign advertisement that one of its officers appears in. There’s a fine line between the job of a law enforcement officer and the unions that represent them.

The ads feature law enforcement officers endorsing gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink. The officers in the commercials are representatives of the Florida Police Benevolent Association, which represents 36,000 officers around the state.

“The Florida PBA has endorsed Alex Sink for governor. We were asked by the PBA if we would come there and do a political advertisement for Alex Sink on behalf of the PBA,” said Rick Cochran, Vice-President of the Tampa Police Benevolent Association.

The commercial identifies Cochran as a detective with the Tampa Police Department.

“We’re not in police uniform, we’re not using police equipment, we’re not using police time. It has nothing to do with the police department, the police department is not endorsing. The union is endorsing,” Cochran said.

Others appear to disagree; Lakeland Police Chief Roger Boatner wrote a letter to a director at the West Central Florida PBA that expressed his concerns over the ad.

“The chief’s letter is intended for the PBA, the Police Benevolent Association, the union because they were the ones behind making the commercial,” said Sergeant Terri Smith, a spokesperson for the Lakeland Police Department.

The letter goes on to say that their policy “forbids the use of official authority for the purpose of influencing another person’s vote.”

It also says “they cannot present themselves as the official representative of the department, without prior authority of the Chief of Police.

While law enforcement officers have the right to appear in campaign ads for their associations, they do not have the right to represent the companies they work for.

“There are policies and procedures that prohibit and officer from backing a political organization as a representative of the Lakeland Police Department,” Smith said.

The Lakeland Police officer that appears in the commercial is identified as detective Nick Moralda.

“At this point in time, we’re still evaluating this situation, gathering information and we’re in communication with the PBA, the city hall and our General Counsel,” Smith said.

Moralda says his appearance in the commercial was done in the capacity as union President of the West Central Florida PBA and not as a representative of The Lakeland Police Department.

The Florida Fraternal order of Police, which represents nearly 20,000 people, also endorsed Sink for governor.


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