A Jacksonville pastor has filed a complaint over political ads appearing to show JSO officers campaigning for Sheriff Mike Williams and Mayor Lenny Curry.
In the ads, the off-duty officers appear to use city property inlcuding cars, motorcycles and facilities.
That complaint from the Jacksonville Leadership Coalition and Pastor R.L. Gundy alleges the ads violated the Hatch Act, a federal law, by having “uniformed law enforcement officers, who work for the taxpayers, appear in political ads.”
“When I saw it, I said, ‘Well they’re allowed to have their own opinion.’ We all are, (but) since they’re in uniform, it was kind of uncomfortable,” said voter Dale Collins.
JSO: “This was already reviewed. An officer appearing in uniform in a political campaign ad is not violating any state or federal law as long as the ad is filmed while the officer is off-duty.” @ActionNewsJax followed up on statement that with OGC response. We’ll update you.
— Russell Colburn (@RussellANjax) February 21, 2019
Action News Jax uncovered a new city ethics provision, just enacted by City Council in December.
It states, in part, “It is a violation for an officer to use any city resources, including property for any political campaigning.”
“Police officers are supposed to remain the most neutral, so I think it’s probably not in the public’s best interest to have them representing one politician or another,” said voter Trinh Lowery.
JSO responded that the ad “was already reviewed. An officer appearing in uniform in a political campaign ad is not violating any state or federal law as long as the ad is filmed while the officer is off-duty.”
The city’s Office of General Counsel told Action News Jax, “No ethics rules have been violated. The provisions cited do not prohibit off-duty uniformed officers from participating in political ads.”
They added that they’re in the process of drafting an opinion.
Curry’s campaign would not comment on the complaint.
© 2019 Cox Media Group.