October 10, 2001

OCTOBER 10, 2001

CONTACT: Charles Dow, Director, Communications And Legislative Affairs 207-626-8577

Attorney General Steven Rowe has communicated in recent weeks with scores of law enforcement officials in Maine about application and enforcement of the Maine Law Enforcement Officers Solicitation Act ("the Act"). The Act prohibits solicitations from the general public for the tangible benefit of a law enforcement officer, agency, or association.

In the attached letter to members of the Maine law enforcement community, Attorney General Rowe said that there appears to be confusion regarding the types of fundraising activities that are allowed under the Act. He provided a simple framework for application of the Act, and several examples of legal and illegal conduct.

Attorney General Rowe wrote: "We are all sworn to uphold the law, and the Maine Solicitation by Law Enforcement Officers Act places on us the shared responsibility for preserving the integrity of law enforcement. To that end, I am instructing my staff to work with you to apply and enforce the Solicitation by Law Enforcement Officers Act consistently, on a prospective basis, in accordance with the principles set forth in this letter."

At a recent meeting of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, Rowe pointed to the legislative history of the Act dating back to 1977, as well as State and federal court decisions from the 1980's and 90's. "It is clear that the purpose of the Act is to protect the integrity of law enforcement from the appearance of coercion inherent in every solicitation on behalf of law enforcement," said Rowe. The Legislature initially passed the Act in 1977 in response to high-pressure fundraising on behalf of some law enforcement associations.

Rowe acknowledged that some illegal solicitations, especially those by private citizens, have been carried out with admirable community service at heart. However, court decisions concerning the Act have made it clear that officials may run afoul of the Constitution by picking and choosing causes. He said that the Attorney General's Office would apply the Act evenly to everyone. He also said that he would not file enforcement actions based on innocent violations of the Act that predated his September 28 letter. He asked law enforcement officials for their assistance in educating the public about the law.

For more information on the legal or legislative history of the Law Enforcement Officers Solicitation Act, contact Chuck Dow in the Attorney General's Office at 626-8577.