First Amendment Double Standard in Missouri

Today’s burning question: Our rules prohibit us from being involved in political campaigning while on duty or in uniform. Do you think we could appear in a campaign ad for a candidate that our union supports provided we wear a uniform other than our fire department’s uniform? Also – city officials have used public safety personnel (police and fire) to pose in uniform in campaign ads for issues they support. Can they really come after us if we do this given the fact they have done it in the past?

Answer: Let’s see… how do you spell hypocricy…

Five University City, Missouri firefighters are facing three month suspensions because they appeared in a campaign ad while “in uniform”… although not a University City uniform.

Hummm….  First Amendment political activities, collective bargaining/concerted activities, due process/arbitrary/selective enforcement… perhaps even a vagueness issue in the application of being “in uniform” to include wearing someone else’s uniform.. and three month suspensions??? Seriously??? What part of this sounds like a battle a city should be spending taxpayer funds fighting? Maybe a 2 day suspension the firefighters might…. MIGHT…  take without heading to federal court. THREE MONTHS??? Someone in city government either seriously miscalculated or is intentionally looking for a fight.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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