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Night shift Des Moines officers will have opportunity to vote

By Tom Barton
Des Moines Register

Des Moines police officers working the night shift during Thursday's caucuses will be able to participate, so long as they live in Des Moines, have requested and been granted approval from a supervisor for the time off and calls for service allow them to do so.

"Safety of the city and being able to handle calls is the most important. That comes first, but if they want to caucus, a supervisor has approved it and things are quiet, then they can," said Des Moines Police Department spokesman Sgt. Vince Valdez.

Supervisors limited the number of third-watch officers allowed to take time off, which means about 30 percent more officers will be on the street than the usual minimum.

"We don't expect anything to happen, but if it does, we want to be ready," Valdez said.

Metro STAR special operations staff will also be on duty to assist Secret Service agents with candidate protection.

Des Moines Police Bargaining Unit Association President Stewart Barnes, who supports Democrat Barack Obama, happens to be one of the nighttime officers. He had raised concerns about not being able to caucus.

"I have concerns when any individual who would normally be allowed to be politically active is restricted by policy or mandate," Barnes said in an interview with The Des Moines Register.

Valdez, though, said no prior requests for time off had been submitted by officers intending to caucus.

"They can ask during the shift, but that's up to supervisor's discretion," he said. "Also, caucusing is not like voting. It's takes time. They could be there for a while. It's not like spending five minutes in a booth and marking boxes or pulling a lever."

Copyright 2007 The Des Moines Register

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