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On-duty firefighter political activity

In this video, Gordon Graham outlines the steps firefighters should take to ensure they are following their department’s policy for political activity on the job

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Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for fire service personnel. Today I am going to talk about firefighters getting involved in political activity while they are on-duty.

I’m sure you have all heard some version of the saying that talking about politics should be avoided in the firehouse. There are a few reasons why this is sage advice. But firehouse talk isn’t the only political issue. Actively working for a political cause should also be avoided while firefighters are on-duty.

Freedom of speech and expression is one of your constitutional rights. But employers are allowed to regulate political speech and expression in the workplace. Also, depending on where you live, there may be laws that prohibit you from engaging in political activity. That may include the obvious things like fundraising or openly campaigning for a candidate or ballot measure. It may also include more subtle activity like wearing certain hats and shirts or displaying buttons, posters, and stickers.

That said, political candidates are usually quick to seek out the endorsement of firefighter groups. If you belong to an organization that has endorsed a candidate or a cause, you need to pay close attention to your department’s rules about political activity while on-duty or representing the department.

If your department doesn’t have any written guidelines, it’s probably in your best interest to ask for some clarification before you get involved in any political activity. In the meantime, sticking to your department’s uniform regulations and steering clear of political topics while on-duty are good ways to avoid problems with your department administration, co-workers, and the public you’re sworn to protect.

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.

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Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.