Standoff over police badge in campaign literature

Retired cop Beeler, police chief at odds

August 23, 2010|By Raven L. Hill, The Baltimore Sun

It's cop against cop in a standoff over the use of a police badge in a race for the Baltimore County Council.

Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson has sent a cease-and-desist letter to council candidate Charles "Buzz" Beeler of Dundalk over the retired officer's use of a police badge in campaign literature.

The chief threatened legal action in the Aug. 11 letter to Beeler, a veteran of the county force for more than 30 years, if he did not immediately stop using the badge and retrieve any fliers or mailers with the symbol.

"The police department's badge and patch are trademark protected and can only be used in connection with police services and with agency approval," the letter said in part. "Your immediate compliance is essential to avoid litigation in this matter."

Beeler, running for the 7th District seat on the County Council, said he will continue to use the badge. He accused the chief of playing politics. Johnson supports Kevin Kamenetz, a candidate for county executive in the Democratic primary, Beeler said. Beeler's primary opponent, Councilman John Olszewski, has endorsed Kamenetz.

"I am not intimidated nor will I be bullied," Beeler said. "Maybe the chief should [have] noted my other campaign symbol, boxing gloves."

Government insignia doesn't fall under trademark law, Beeler's attorney said.

"I'd be really surprised if they even consulted the county attorney before they sent the letter out," attorney Mike Stelmack said. "Moreover, I'd be really interested to know if they have vigorously defended the trademark against other candidates for office."

The 7th District includes Essex and Dundalk.

raven.hill@baltsun.com

An earlier version of this article misquoted Mike Stelmack. It also quoted a Baltimore County Council candidate stating that County Police Chief James Johnson backs a favored candidate in the race for county executive. Johnson has not made an endorsement in the race, and does not intend to. The Sun regrets the errors.

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