The folks behind Prop L, better known as the Sit-Lie law or “Civil Sidewalks,” were scrambling to re-edit a commercial supporting the controversial ballot initiative this morning after an Examiner report noted what might be an ethical violation in the ad.

In the original version of the commercial, since removed from YouTube, former Park Station Capt. Teresa “Teri” Barrett says “Civil sidewalks pretty much says it all” while in her SFPD uniform.

The Examiner’s Brent Begin notes that the City Attorney’s Office sent a memo to all department heads over a month ago warning them that political activity while in uniform was strictly verboten.

Begin quotes the memo as saying that “City officers and employees may not participate in political activities of any kind while in uniform,” defining “in uniform” as any time city employees “are wearing all or any part of a uniform that they are required or authorized to wear when engaged in official duties.” He also notes that “Ethics Director John St. Croix confirmed the prohibition on campaigning in uniform, and said that a violation would most likely result in a warning.”

Political consultant Alex Tourk, speaking for Civil Sidewalks, doesn’t seem so sure, telling the Appeal by email that “We believe we were operating within the confines of the law,” but that they’re editing her out of the commercial at her request. They expect, we’re told, to have the revised, uniformed-cop-free video up today. (Update, 2:27 PM: Here it is.)

This certainly isn’t the first time an SFPD officer has been scrutinized for lobbying while representing themselves as a cop, not a private citizen who just really cares about something — this spring, police commissioner Petra DeJesus suggested Taraval Station Captain Denise Schmitt inappropriately “lobbied” the Planning Department against a pot dispensary opening up in her district. However, that was back in April, well before the August 30 memo that seemed to make the rules of the road ultra-clear for cops and other SF city workers.

For Tourk’s part, he says that “Captain Barrett is an outstanding public servant, and we apologize to her and the police department if the video subjects them to any unnecessary scrutiny.”

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

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