It’s the political scandal of the day in Miami, where city council members and Biden supporters are demanding that a Miami police officer be suspended after walking through the city’s Government Center building in uniform and wearing a mask emblazoned with the slogan “Trump 2020: No More Bullshit”.
Here is @CityofMiami Police Officer Daniel Ubeda, in full uniform with badge and gun wearing his Trump mask inside of the polling location in government center.
This is city funded voter intimidation.
Ubeda should be suspended immediately. pic.twitter.com/TbJxu6mcem
— Steve Simeonidis (@stevesimeonidis) October 20, 2020
Simeonides is the head of the Democratic Party in Miami-Dade, and in a subsequent tweet, he alleged that the Miami police officer actually committed a crime, quoting a section of state law that makes it a misdemeanor for any “employee of the state or any political subdivision” to “participate in any political campaign for an elective office while on duty.”
The Miami New Times says the law is actually a little more complicated, however. Police officers in Miami are allowed to vote while on duty, so the idea that Ubeda somehow intimidated voters by appearing in uniform is patently absurd. Even the Trump mask, which Simeonides claims violates the statute about government employees not participating in campaigns while on duty, isn’t a cut-and-dried issue. Was Ubeda participating in a political campaign by wearing the Trump mask? If he was casting his vote, the answer is most likely “no.”
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust says local officials and employees have a right to engage in “political campaign activities,” but they can’t use their official authority to influence another person’s vote.
“Political campaign activities may not involve the use of public resources in support of any political campaign or candidate, including office stationery, telephones, computers, or vehicles,” the commission states on its website.
Wearing a Trump mask isn’t using public resources, and as it turns out, campaign apparel is perfectly acceptable for voters to wear in Miami-Dade.
According to the Florida Division of Elections’ Polling Place Procedures Manual, voters are allowed to wear apparel with social or political messaging inside polling places. Poll watchers and poll workers are not. But police officers aren’t allowed anywhere within a polling place unless they have permission from an election board to be there, or if they’re voting themselves.
So, police are allowed to vote in uniform, and voters are allowed to wear apparel with political messaging. If Ubeda was actually casting a vote, I’d argue that no law was broken, though the Miami Police Department has declared that Ubeda violated departmental policy by wearing the Trump mask while in uniform.
We are aware of the photograph being circulated of a Miami Police officer wearing a political mask in uniform. This behavior is unacceptable, a violation of departmental policy, and is being addressed immediately. pic.twitter.com/E3eO0IQh0f
— Miami PD (@MiamiPD) October 20, 2020
I doubt the officer is going to face any charges over this, though plenty of Democrats are demanding it happen and the First Amendment issues inherent in the case would be fascinating to flesh out in court. It sounds like he’s going to face at least some discipline from the Miami PD, however, and the department has a valid concern about officers wearing candidate apparel while on duty.
Conservatives would likely be pretty ticked off if a cop was in uniform wearing a Biden mask, even if he was standing in line to cast their vote. I’d like to think we wouldn’t be demanding that the officer be arrested, but there would be plenty of folks on the Right calling it inappropriate or worse. I don’t think it was or should be illegal for Daniel Ubeda to wear his Trump mask to go vote, but since he was in his Miami PD uniform it also wasn’t the brightest idea.