Commentary: California law enforcers become lawbreakers

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is so hell-bent on getting five budget-related ballot measures passed that he is turning local sheriffs and police chiefs into law-breakers.

The law in question – California Government Code Section 3206 – forbids public employees such as police officers and firefighters from politicking in uniform.

Although the law is routinely ignored by unscrupulous politicians and public employees, it's a good law. Public employees shouldn't be allowed to use the power of their uniforms to sway voters.

That said, the law is flawed because it doesn't have prescribed penalties. You can break it and get off scot-free; the only price you might have to pay is getting called out by a political opponent or watchdog.

Schwarzenegger's representatives requested that law enforcement leaders appear in uniform at his Feb. 27 appearance in Fresno and assured them that the governor would only praise legislators for passing a state budget that protected public-safety funding.

"The question was specifically asked, 'Is this a political rally?' and I was told no," says Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims. "Then, as you know, the governor started talking about the upcoming propositions."

Not only was Mims in uniform, but the event took place on the steps of the Fresno County Sheriff's Office.

To read the complete column, visit www.fresnobee.com.

Related stories from McClatchy DC