Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Police Force' to Link Members, Politics

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Police Force' to Link Members, Politics

Article excerpt

Byline: Jessie-Lynne Kerr, Times-Union staff writer

Encouraged by support of a straw ballot vote on health insurance benefits for retired or disabled public safety officers, the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police is starting a new political organization called the Police Force.

For $12 a year, the public will get a vehicle decal and "revealing" profiles of political candidates. They can attend political rallies with candidates endorsed by the FOP and can even work with police officers making political campaign signs.

"This is strictly for politics," said David Stevens, president of the Jacksonville FOP Lodge 5-30, the largest FOP labor lodge in Florida and the seventh-largest in the United States.

"We want this to be positive. We want to provide information to educate the voters as to who we are supporting and why."

The FOP decided to form the Police Force, Stevens said, because more than 40,000 people signed petitions that supported giving retired public safety employees health insurance for the same cost as current employees. It also would have guaranteed those benefits would never be cut by the city.

City lawyers argued that the proposed charter amendment, which was on the Sept. 10 primary ballot, was unconstitutional, and a judge agreed. But the question remained on the ballot as a straw ballot poll having no force or effect.

At the election, the question was approved by 64,344 voters. Opposed were 42,307.

Stevens said the group is for people who want to be involved with candidates endorsed by the FOP.

"We had such good response on the straw ballot that we thought this was a good time to involve the community," Stevens said. "One of Sheriff Nat Glover's legacies is involving the community with the police with his community policing programs."

He said the Police Force is not really a political action committee because it will not give money to candidates.

Stevens said he doubted the organization would do credit or background checks on candidates as part of its revealing profiles.

"But we won't be backing anyone with a criminal record," he added. …

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