I have concerns about the endorsement of a political candidate by Police Officers. A portion of an advertisement appearing in The Evening Sun on Aug. 28, 2012 states, “Joe McBride has been endorsed for County Court Judge by: • Joe Angelino, Norwich City Police Chief • Ernie Cutting, Chenango County Sheriff.”
“In 1983, the Legislature enacted and the Governor signed Chapter 215 of the Laws of 1983. That Chapter permits police officers to become involved in political activities. The New York State Board of Elections is of the opinion that the political rights of a police officer have been expanded and that a police officer as a private citizen may now endorse a political candidate as long as the endorsement is not given in such a manner as to coerce or intimidate a voter to vote for a particular candidate. The act of endorsing, in and of itself, is not a violation of subdivision 1 of section 17-110 of the Election Law. It is the opinion of the Board that there would be no violation of section 17-110(1) of the Election Law if a police officer acting as a private citizen was to direct his or her endorsement of a candidate to the public as a whole by appearing on television, making a tape for radio, or is pictured or quoted in the press supporting a candidate of his or her choice.”
Does the use of the official title of the police commanders in such endorsement infer that the police officer is not acting as a private citizen? If only one voter develops anxiety from that endorsement because they have political signage at their homes or on their vehicles not supporting the endorsed candidate, could this be construed as coercion or intimidation? Does the mere presence of the endorsements suggest that impropriety may occur?
Does the endorsement of the current District Attorney by police commanders suggest that the commanders are being coerced? The police are dependent upon the District Attorney’s Office to insure that their cases get prosecuted fairly. If the current DA does not get elected to County Judge and remains District Attorney, are there possible consequences to the police if the endorsement was not forthcoming? As the County Court Judge where endorsements have been made by the police commanders, will there be a fair and balanced handling of the criminal cases in front of that Judge? These are hypothetical questions that seem to suggest that impropriety might occur.
I am not suggesting that any wrongdoing has occurred. I am stating that the mere appearance of impropriety certainly casts a shadow over the election process and even more importantly, the criminal justice system itself.
When you link these questions with the behaviors of the Chenango County Republican Committee and their endorsements, do the possible improprieties seem to form a consistent pattern? You are the voters … you decide.
Robert H. Benton Jr.