Letters: Political activity laws confusing

During the latest elections, the Baton Rouge Union of Police publicly endorsed candidates. Currently, it is a commonly accepted practice for the union to endorse a candidate while an individual officer cannot do so without being fired or forced to retire or resign. The union is simply a group of individual police officers, so I find this somewhat confusing. Below, see what the attorney general has opined about the police union endorsing candidates. This information is on the Civil Service website.

83-07-20 (83-585)

http://www.ag.state.la.us/Shared/ViewDoc.aspx?Type=4&Doc=8153

Participation in public meeting or convention by civil service employee violates statute only if participation amounts to violation of specifically enumerated prohibitions contained in statute. Classified employee may not indirectly take part in campaign for public office by belonging to organization that endorses or contributes to candidate(s) for public office. R.S.33:2504

78-02-28 (78-126)

http://www.ag.state.la.us/Shared/ViewDoc.aspx?Type=4&Doc=2705

Police union whose members are classified employees may not endorse political candidates.

R.S. 33:2504

In addition to the foregoing opinions, I located a Political Prohibitions Poster on the Civil Service Web Site that discusses the endorsement of candidates by organized groups of police officers. It very clearly states that the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th District upheld the firing of five Kenner police officers, who belonged to a police association, for communicating the endorsement of and support for a political candidate.

So why may I ask, is the Baton Rouge Union of Police allowed to endorse candidates? I posed this very question to the Civil Service Board on Dec. 20. I also requested from them any statute or other authority that allows the union to endorse a candidate. The chairman, who is a police union member, indicated there is something somewhere that allows this practice but could not provide an adequate answer to my question. He offered no further comment or suggestions where I might find this information. No other member of the board even responded. Is it because they have no answer due to the fact there is no such authority?

Is the Baton Rouge Union of Police in violation of civil service rules and the Louisiana State Constitution? Is the Civil Service Board incorrectly posting information in this matter? Why does the Civil Service Board publish statements that clearly prohibit groups of police officers from participating in political activities, specifically endorsements, but then allows them to endorse candidates openly and freely without enforcing their very own rules which are based on the Louisiana State Constitution? There seem to be lots of questions, but no good answers as of this letter.

I write this letter in hopes there is someone who can bring some clarity to this matter once and for all.

Richard Sobers

retired police lieutenant

Ethel