When It's Unlawful to Display a Fraternal Order of Police Emblem

Article excerpt

In August 2012, Officer Jose Marrero issued WJXT Channel 4 traffic anchor and reporter Ashley Mitchem a notice to appear on misdemeanor charge of unlawful display of a Fraternal Order of Police emblem.

Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford ordered the charge voided, as well as a couple of traffic citations. He said Mitchem probably had no idea about the law regarding the emblem and that nobody does.

Rutherford said the Sheriff's Office checked with the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police at the time to ensure they didn't have a problem with Mitchem having the emblem. Rutherford said the union didn't have a problem with Mitchem having the emblem.

The law states that the emblems, which signify membership, can only be used as prescribed by the union. The Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police abides by the state union's rules for emblem usage, said Phil Vogelsang, general counsel for the FOP.

Vogelsang and FOP president, Steve Amos, weren't in their current roles with the FOP in 2012 and both said they weren't consulted about the Mitchem issue. On Monday, Vogelsang said according to the state union's bylaws the emblem can be given only to a police union member's household or someone who lives at the same residence.

The intent of the policy is that the emblem is for members of an officer's immediate family, Amos said. It is not intended to cover boyfriends, girlfriends or cousins, he said.

"It's more like a brotherhood, so not just anybody should have it on their car," Vogelsang said. "The emblem itself doesn't give you any special treatment but it does signify that you are law enforcement or have immediate family in law enforcement. …