Officer disciplined who removed hate literature

June 08, 1993|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Writer

Sgt. James Mentzer, a 24-year-veteran of the Baltimore County police force, thought he was doing the right thing when he had several hundred racist and anti-Semitic newspapers removed from lawns in an Essex neighborhood last year -- especially after many residents complained about them.

But the action drew a reprimand from a police trial board yesterday after white supremacists who distributed the newspapers complained that their Constitutional right to freedom of the press had been violated.

Neither of the two men who complained showed up at Sergeant Mentzer's trial board hearing, and a deal was worked out in which Sergeant Mentzer agreed to a "verbal reprimand" and "verbal counseling."

For violating a departmental rule about dealing with racist, anti-Semitic and other hate materials, Sergeant Mentzer faced the loss of three days of leave. Under the arrangement worked out yesterday, he loses nothing.

In fact, after the deal was struck, he was off to work at the Essex precinct, where's he's worked for the last four years.

"I feel I made a proper decision at the time," said Sergeant Mentzer. "For one thing, they do advocate violence. They're basically against the black race. They're against the Jewish race. They apparently dislike anybody who is, I guess, not white Anglo-Saxon. That's how they phrase it."

According to attorneys in the case, by removing all of the Racial Loyalty newspapers, Sergeant Mentzer violated a departmental rule which allows officers to remove the materials only if the person who received it asks for it to be removed.

While numerous people in the 100 block of Middlesex Road wanted the newspapers removed in March 1992, when the incident occurred, police did not have complaints from everyone, said James Beach, an assistant county attorney.

By pressing the charges against Sergeant Mentzer, the county police force was not endorsing the white supremacist newspapers, said Sgt. Stephen Doarnberger, a departmental spokesman. "We're endorsing the First Amendment," he said.

"They're covered by the First Amendment, no matter how reprehensible they are to some people."

Neither Frank Cook nor Charles Altvater, the two white supremacists who complained about the papers being removed, could be reached for comment yesterday.

In an unrelated case, Altvater last week pleaded guilty to planting pipe bombs in a county police officer's home and a state trooper's patrol car.

The Racial Loyalty newspaper is published by the Church of the Creator in Otto, N.C. Altvater is a leader of the church's Baltimore branch.

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