Police chief apologizes to Schrader for stunt Disparaging letter given by Howard officers

November 07, 1998|By Gady A. Epstein and Del Quentin Wilber | Gady A. Epstein and Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Howard County Police Chief Wayne Livesay apologized yesterday to Republican Councilman Dennis R. Schrader for a post-election stunt pulled by four police union leaders this week.

Four union officials walked into County Council offices while off-duty Wednesday morning and dropped off a folded cardboard box, packing tape and an angry send-off letter for Schrader, who lost to former Police Chief James N. Robey in the county executive race Tuesday.

Schrader, who exchanged heated words with police union leaders and his opponent during the campaign about officer involvement in Robey's campaign, took aim at Robey and police after the incident.

"It's obvious that we're going to have a county now that's basically going to be run by police," said Schrader, granting an interview to The Sun yesterday for the first time since his election defeat.

The letter, signed by union President John D. Paparazzo, read, "Please accept this box and packing tape as a small token of the contempt that I have for you. I realize that I played a very small part in defeating you, but I will savor this for a long time to come." The letter concluded, "P.S. -- I understand that Buffalo is beautiful this time of year," referring to Schrader's hometown.

Livesay said yesterday that the officers' actions were wrong.

"I personally called Dennis Schrader and apologized to him," Livesay said. "It should not have been done, and it does not represent the professionalism I expect from the Howard County Police Department."

Livesay said it is "too early to tell" whether the officers will be disciplined. County Executive Charles I. Ecker said he hopes the officers can be disciplined, and one law enforcement expert said they deserve to be punished.

"It's absolutely disgraceful and calls for disciplinary action," said Patrick V. Murphy, a former New York police commissioner and director of public safety for the District of Columbia who is now program director of the American Police Association in Washington.

"Some suspension should be taken to send a message to the officers and to reassure the public that in the next election, if you happen to have a campaign poster for the other party, police officers will service you objectively," Murphy said.

Livesay, who contributed $100 to Robey's campaign, said the officers' actions do "not reflect what Jim Robey instilled in this Police Department" during seven years as chief.

Robey distanced himself from the incident in a statement made through his campaign manager, former police Lt. Herman Charity.

"We don't condone any improper conduct on the part of any officers, and the matter should be turned over to Chief Wayne Livesay for his review," Charity said.

Schrader said staffers at the County Council offices felt intimidated and that he wonders whether he could "drive down the street" without getting ticketed.

Paparazzo said he and the officers were exercising their rights of free speech on their time and did not threaten Schrader or anyone else. He said county employees aren't scared and that Schrader was "sensationalizing" a nonissue to get attention.

Two county employees said yesterday that they were not frightened or intimidated, though one said the scene made the employees uncomfortable.

Pub Date: 11/07/98

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