Blue humor Howard County: Off-duty officers dishonored police force with clumsy effort to rub in candidate's defeat.

November 10, 1998

THERE IS no excuse for the behavior of four off-duty Howard County police officers who left a cardboard box for defeated county executive candidate Dennis R. Schrader to pack up and leave town. It was the wrong message to send after the election of former police Chief James N. Robey to the county's highest office. Some people fear -- without justification -- that Mr. Robey will allow the police free rein. The officers' misbehavior suggests that they expect that, too.

The day after Mr. Schrader lost the Nov. 3 election, a box was left at his office with a note signed by John Paparazzo, president of the Howard County police union. It said, "Please accept this box and packing tape as a small token of the contempt that I have for you. P.S.: I understand that Buffalo is beautiful this time of year." Mr. Schrader grew up in Buffalo, N.Y.

The mean-spirited stunt is an apparent outgrowth of a divisive political campaign. Mr. Schrader referred to Mr. Paparazzo as a "union boss" who would dominate Mr. Robey. Uniformed police showed up at a Schrader rally last month in Laurel in what appeared to be an effort at intimidation.

There was no mistaking the intent of the four off-duty officers who left the moving box at Mr. Schrader's office. Their sophomoric joke implied an abuse of power that isn't funny.

Police Chief Wayne Livesay apologized to Mr. Schrader. He said the action does not represent the professionalism he expects. to prove it, he must reprimand the officers involved.

Every citizen should be able to expect equal treatment by the police. Officers have a right to express a personal point of view on their own time. But they cross the line when they commit an act on or off duty that invokes the institution of the Howard County Police Department and that reflects on their ability to do their jobs in an impartial manner. Such behavior must not go unpunished.

Pub Date: 11/10/98

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