Denise Lunsford’s re-election TV ad rankles Albemarle Police

Denise Lunsford, Albemarle County’s embattled Commonwealth’s Attorney, has a new problem on her hands.

Already facing a difficult reelection campaign, a potentially embarrassing FOIA request, a lawsuit related to the FOIA request, questionable fundraising events, blowback from the bungled persecution of Mark Weiner, and widely reported personal issues, Ms. Lunsford has been called to task for her current campaign television commercial.

The TV spot, which features Lunsford addressing a group and interacting with various individuals, appears to have been filmed largely at a September 15 Albemarle County Police Depart (ACPD) forum on Body Cameras, held at the police facility on Fifth Street Extended.

The commercial begins with Lunsford introducing herself in a studio setting. The next cut—which along with all of the others, looks to have been professionally filmed, framed, and processed—shows a head shot of Denise Lunsford speaking at the forum. At the :06 mark is a perfectly lit and staged shot of Denise Lunsford and forum facilitator, Cynthia Murray, reviewing documents.

Following, at :08 is a shot of Lunsford talking with uniformed ACPD office Major Ron Lantz and another (presently unidentified) officer in plain clothes.

Captain Greg Jenkins is shown in rear-side profile talking with Lunsford at :19, followed at :21 with a clip of Col. Steve Sellers, ACPD Chief, addressing the forum audience and seated next to a perfectly framed, focused and lit, Denise Lunsford.

The commercial concludes with Lunsford intermingling with forum participants and a voiceover of Lunsford saying, “ Working closely with the officers of our police department, I am dedicated to keeping our community safe.”

Lunsford’s spot has raised eyebrows on officials at the Albemarle County Police Department, which made several points in response to an inquiry from The Schilling Show:

  • None of the pictured officers gave their permission to Denise Lunsford for use of their images in this advertisement
  • None of the pictured officers have endorsed Denise Lunsford
  • None of the pictured officers participated in the clips knowing they would be used for political advertising
  • General Orders of the ACPD prohibit use of sworn officers representing the ACPD in political advertisements
  • Denise Lunsford’s re-election advertisement commercial should have used an endorsement disclaimer, but did not

In addition, the Albemarle County Police Department contacted Denise Lunsford directly on October 28 in regard to the commercial. In that conversation, Lunsford agreed to edit the spot and add the appropriate disclaimer.

As of 8 PM on October 29, Lunsford’s unedited commercial was still airing on at least one Charlottesville-area television station.

Other legal sources suggest that ACPD officers’ appearance in Lunsford’s advertising may be a violation of the Hatch Act.

Lunsford, whose surrogates have, and who personally has directly and indirectly referenced her relationship with the police, throughout the campaign, may finally have stepped on the thin blue line. And in this instance, the cost of bad judgment may be priceless.

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