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Policing politics: Can candidates stump for votes in uniform?

A number of police officers running for public office are proudly posing in their uniforms for campaign photos and ads.

But is it legal?

Several Political Notebook readers have asked the question, citing a state law that seems to prohibit the practice.

Indiana code says “A state police department employee or a police officer or firefighter…of a political subdivision who recklessly:

(1) solicits votes or campaign funds;

(2) challenges voters; or

(3) performs any other election related function;

while wearing any identifying insignia or article of clothing that is part of an official uniform or while on duty commits a Class A misdemeanor.”

Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries is wearing his uniform in various ads and photos on his website as he runs for Senate District 15. So are Allen County Chief Deputy David Gladieux and Indiana State Trooper Luke NaThalang – GOP primary candidates for sheriff.

Fries’ campaign released a legal opinion from Haller & Colvin stating the law requires “reckless” acts and that there is no evidence that Fries has committed any reckless act soliciting votes, campaign funds or other conduct.

The opinion also cites an exception in the law that appears to allow an officer to consent to a photograph of the individual wearing the uniform in an ad supporting a candidate or political party.

Gladieux’s campaign quoted the same letter from attorney John Feighner.

NaThalang said his photograph in his Indiana State Police uniform has been approved by the superintendent of the Indiana State Police. And he pointed to the same exception.

To contact Niki Kelly email her at nkelly@jg.net or follow her on Twitter @nkellyatJG.

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