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March 3, 2014

Salem chief's candidacy raises issues

(Continued)

In an advisory, the State Ethics Commission addresses some of the issues a police chief faces, while citing a different example.

“An appointed assistant district attorney may run for state representative, as long as he does so on his own time and without using his paid public work time, his official title, or public resources such as his office email address or copy machine,” the advisory states.

While not exactly the same circumstances, this ground has been trod before. Police officers have been elected to the Legislature, many after they retired or left their departments. One, like Tucker, was even the boss.

Former State Police Col. Reed Hillman, a Republican from Sturbridge, was a high-profile police officer who served in the Legislature and was a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in 2006. He stepped down as head of the State Police in 1999 to run for state representative. Hillman said he retired not to avoid potential conflicts but because he was in a special election and had only a few weeks to campaign.

Hillman agreed that fundraising poses the most potential problems.

“As long as he has a Chinese wall between his position as chief and fundraising, he’s golden,” Hillman said.

Jack McDevitt, a criminologist and associate dean at Northeastern’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, said there have been a few chiefs around the country who have campaigned while remaining in office.

Right now, for example, in a high-profile race on the West Coast, the police chief in Long Beach, Calif., is running for Los Angeles County sheriff. A spokeswoman for the Long Beach Police Department said the chief intends to stay on the job. She declined to comment further, saying questions about his candidacy should be directed to his campaign staff.

So, how does a chief avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest?

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