Sheriff's candidate and Las Vegas police officer Laurie Bisch was written up by the department this week for wearing her uniform while appearing twice on local television.
The reprimand didn't include any punishment, but it threatens discipline if she appears on television in uniform again.
Bisch said Friday she believes the reprimand was a political move, though she was simply following the example of her opponent and boss, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie.
"Absolutely I believe it's politically motivated," said Bisch, a patrol officer with the department's Convention Center Area Command, which covers most of the resort corridor.
She was cited for appearing in a uniform while off-duty and for making public statements about "controversial subjects" while under "color of law."
The two television segments, on KSNV-TV, Channel 3 and KLAS-TV, Channel 8, dealt with changes in the coroner's inquest process, according to the complaint. By department policy, employees may appear in uniform only while acting in an official capacity. The only exception is for officers running for political office who may be photographed in uniform for campaign brochures, signs and other materials.
"If I'm officially representing the department, I can be in uniform," said officer Bill Cassell, a department spokesman. "If I'm doing something on my own, I have to be in plainclothes."
But Bisch said she wore her department uniform on the television segments in late August after seeing Gillespie on Channel 8 on Aug. 3. The sheriff appeared in uniform with campaign signs in the background for a piece about the race. Bisch appeared in plainclothes for the segment.
Gillespie said he does his best to separate campaigning from his duties as sheriff and as the face of the department. Friday he said he had just participated in a Republican function where he was in plainclothes.
But the line can be blurry, he said, because media interviews frequently bounce between election issues and department operations.
For the Aug. 3 segment he said he understood the piece to be about his credentials for being re-elected, and being the current sheriff, in uniform, was part of his credentials. He said he believed it did not violate the department's policy, and that he was also asked questions about crime trends and department issues such as officer-involved shootings.
He said he couldn't comment on Bisch's written reprimand because he wasn't aware of it or the circumstances that led to it.
Two former candidates for Clark County sheriff, now retired, said they clearly understood the rules while on the campaign trail.
Randy Oaks, a former Las Vegas police captain and later chief of police in Prescott, Ariz., said that when he ran for sheriff in the 1990s he "never presumed" that he could have worn his uniform outside of campaign photographs.
"That uniform is pretty sacred," he said Friday from his Arizona home. "That means business, and you are truly representing the department when you put that uniform on."
John L. Sullivan, a former deputy chief who challenged Oaks in 1994, said he understood that wearing the uniform outside of campaign photos was a "no-no."
The reprimand is the second for Bisch in the past two years.
In 2008, she received a reprimand for taking her daughter's friend to a UMC Quick Care under the guise that the girl was actually her daughter. The girl had suffered a dog bite at Bisch's home and Bisch said she wasn't able to reach the girl's mother in time to obtain consent to treat her at the facility. She also said that reprimand was politically motivated.
Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0440.