Ohio Cop Fights for Freedom of Expression

An Air Force veteran and 16-year member of a local police force outside Cleveland, Ohio, has filed a lawsuit, arguing his constitutional rights to freedom of association and political expression have been violated.

Rob Breyley on Tuesday asked for emergency relief to display a sign on his car that reads: "Veterans Against Kerry." The city's police chief ordered Breyley to remove the sign from the officer's personal vehicle, which he regularly parks in a public lot next to the police station.

"I believe here in the United States of America, that each of us — as both citizens, regardless of the fact that I'm a police officer — have a right to express our individual opinions about political candidates," Breyley said. "In this case, the candidate being the president of the United States."

Breyley was told he could endorse any political candidate he wanted so long as it isn't on city time or city property. But given the proximity of the parked car's sign to the police station, North Royalton Mayor Cathy Luks said the police chief was concerned that it could be perceived that the police department was taking a certain political position and President Bush (search) over Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (search).

"It's certainly not our desire to interrupt anybody's ability to support a candidate or violate their free speech," Luks said. "When you are on your own time, you are free to support any political candidate you choose. Under civil service rules, there are some restrictions in terms of what police officials can do ... I guess that's the question here, as to whether where his vehicle was parked, creates a perception that is improper for the department or not and that's what we need to investigate further."

An emergency hearing was held Wednesday morning in federal court to consider Breyley's claim. U.S. District Judge Soloman Oliver, Jr. denied Breyley's request for emergency relief to display the sign in his car until a full-blown trial is held Oct. 13. 

Click on the video box near the top of this story to watch a report by FOX News' Jeff Goldblatt.