Can police officer disobey order?

Jan. 29, 2011 at 1:45 AM
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PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- A Pennsylvania state university police officer had the right to disobey an order to break up a campus demonstration by evangelical Christians, his lawyer says.

Kutztown University at Pennsylvania penalized Cpl. Steve Armbruster by suspending him for five days. A federal judge threw out his claim last year that the university violated his right to free speech and due process and that he has a right to refuse an unconstitutional order.

An appeals panel with the U.S. 3rd Circuit heard arguments in the case, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Friday.

Armbruster was on duty when 15 members of Repent America showed up on campus. A newspaper account at the time described the group as opposing Jews, Catholics, homosexuality and abortion.

Armbruster's lawyer, Randall L. Wenger of the Independent Law Center in Harrisburg, argued the group was not disorderly and Armbruster was within his rights to refuse to move them.

"Do we live in a police state where we expect police officers to obey all orders no matter what?" the lawyer asked.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Claudia M. Tesoro said police officers do not have a right to disobey routine orders, "even questionable ones."

Armbruster, a candidate for Carbon County sheriff, is a member of Oath Keepers, a police and military group that supports disobeying unconstitutional orders.

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