Freedom To Express Hate HOWARD COUNTY

June 10, 1993

The so-called "church" group that puts out a newspape called Racial Loyalty is as hateful as it is full of hate. Published by the North Carolina-based Church of the Creator, this white supremacist rag preaches that blacks, Jews and "mud races" threaten the survival of Caucasians.

"Church" members have distributed the paper in the Baltimore area for the past few years, including in Howard County. Early last year, Columbia residents were stunned by the story of the skinhead son of liberal-minded parents who seemed to relish his role as Racial Loyalty paper boy.

Around the same time, hundreds of the publications were left at homes in the Baltimore County community of Essex. Sgt. James Mentzer of the Baltimore County police responded to the complaints of residents by confiscating the papers.

Some will find it hard not to back Sergeant Mentzer's action. He has said that because the materials advocated violence against minorities, he made "the proper decision" by having the papers removed. What else do you do with garbage but haul it away?

In this case, the First Amendment says you leave it be. Also, a regulation of the Baltimore County police stipulates that such a removal can take place only with the permission of the affected citizens. Sergeant Mentzer picked up all the Racial Loyalty papers in Essex, though not all the residents had asked police to do so. Thus, he violated the departmental regulation.

For his misstep, the sergeant might have been suspended for three days. But a police trial board ruled this week he would get only a verbal reprimand. Some sort of disciplinary action had to be taken, and given the circumstances, this slap on his wrist is appropriate.

The Howard police department has no written regulation similar to Baltimore County's. However, a memo was circulated after the Columbia incident reminding officers they weren't to remove such materials unless asked.

As a Baltimore County police spokesman said this week, "Racial Loyalty is scurrilous stuff. But freedom of speech is a Constitutional right police officers are sworn to uphold."

Residents of both Howard and Baltimore counties should be glad and proud their police departments take that particular duty seriously.

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