In summary

This plan is a disingenuous double standard; we do not see the same ban suggested for other organizations that proclaim strong positions on policing in America.

By Marshall E. McClain, Los Angeles

Marshall E. McClain is president and CEO of the Airport Peace Officers Association.

Re “Proposal to prohibit police unions from funding district attorney campaigns doesn’t go far enough”; Commentary, June 5, 2020

On June 1, a coalition of current and former elected prosecutors sent a letter calling on the California State Bar to prohibit police and law enforcement unions from contributing to campaigns of prosecutors who are running for election within their jurisdictions. These district attorneys and prosecutors of California say that police union contributions are made only with the goal of currying favor from the prosecutors to protect bad behavior by officers. This is a disingenuous double standard. We do not see the same ban suggested for Black Lives Matter or the American Conservative Union Foundation, both of which proclaim strong positions on policing in America. 

As the president of Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association, we find it offensive that police unions are singled out to curb our First Amendment rights by suggesting we should be banned from contributing to any elected office holders – most notably prosecutor positions. LAAPOA’s members and I do believe that as citizens and as specialized police in the nation’s second busiest airport, where we are on the front lines of safety and security at LAX and Van Nuys, we have the right and perhaps the obligation to be active citizens in elections. 

Disallowing these contributions from police unions is a clear attempt to silence our collective voice on who represents our community in different levels of government, and, again, is a violation of our First Amendment rights. Under the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Citizens United case, unions can spend the money on materials in support of, or in opposition to, a candidate for office, much like any individual can. A move to ban our participation in the electoral process would only disenfranchise LAAPOA’s majority-minority police force in a time when our country is reckoning with policing and racial divisions in our politics. It is necessary that our voice be heard and considered at all levels of government, just as those voices who criticize us are. 

LAAPOA does seek an active role in the outcomes we want to see in our community and nation, and being able to participate in the political process is an important way to be part of the conversation where everyone’s voice is considered. To pick and choose who can be part of the political process does not represent the values our country created to uphold equal participation for all citizens. 

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Gary Reed with any commentary questions: gary@calmatters.org, (916) 234-3081.