I 'm not sure what to make of the decision made either by York County District Attorney Tom Kearney or York City Police Chief Wes Kahley or both to end the city's participation in the York County Drug Task Force.
I do think it's unfortunate.
I also think it's a terrible result of what might be nothing more than a piddling contest between two grown men, two professionals, over territorial rights.
It's all about control, in other words.
And if it's allowed to continue, the biggest losers are going to be the residents of York City and York County.
The mayor of York City, Kim Bracey, is alarmed about the turn of events, as well, because it clearly could affect the ability of York City Police to investigate drug crimes in the city. Bracey said she would sit down with Kearney to discuss the matter. That's a step in the right direction.
Bracey also might want to sit down -- and I'm sure she will -- with her chief of police because it is alleged by Kearney that Kahley "elected to no longer be a member" of the task force.
Something about a refusal to sign a written work agreement -- a contract laying out who controls whom, what and when.
"I'm concerned about what this means to the community," Bracey said last week. "The drug task force has been a professional dedicated team of law-enforcement officers ... and public safety is definitely a concern."
Not just for the city, but for the county, too. "This could be a huge loss for York County, the dismantling of this team," she said.
She's right, of course.
Because drug crimes occur in every nook and cranny of York County. There might have been a time in York County's recent history -- say 20 or 25 years ago -- when most drug crimes were committed within the city's boundaries.
But that's not the case anymore. A person in the market for illegal drugs can purchase them just as easily in Dover, Spring Grove, Glen Rock or Wrightsville as they can in the city. Maybe more easily.
So if it's in society's best interest to investigate drug crimes, it's best to accept that they occur everywhere, not just the inner city.
That, of course, has been the goal of the York County Drug Task Force since it was formed in 1987 -- attack the drug problem wherever it reared its ugly head. And it's the reason members of just about every police department in York County have been active participants in the task force over the years.
For his part, Kearney recognizes the importance of having York City Police detectives involved in the drug investigation process.
"It's not my intention, nor do I wish, to abandon city drug-enforcement efforts," he said.
And for his part, Kahley is quick to say, "To throw this away is unbelievable to me."
Yet here we are -- York City drug officers have been removed from the task force. As of last Friday, they were working -- for lack of room anywhere else -- at a desk inside Kahley's office.
Why? Well, according to Kearney, "The city has declined to accept the structure and lines of authority as being through the district attorney's office."
"The city police have declined to recognize any chain of command in the drug task force outside of their own department," he added.
Kahley believes city police must be aware of any task force activities in advance -- who, when and where -- as a matter of officer safety and public safety.
So he insists on being part of the process as it relates to city officers.
And Kahley believes the latest policy manual, put together by the district attorney's office, would force him to relinquish authority over city officers who are part of the drug task force, and give up authority over drug investigations and drug arrests within York City limits.
He's unwilling to do that.
Like I said, control and territory. That's what this is all about.
Picture two male grizzly bears fighting over the best stretch of water from which to fish for salmon.
Actually, I think each man has a reasonable point. Kahley wants to protect his own men first and foremost. Nothing wrong with that.
Kearney wants a central point of oversight -- his office -- to ensure the proper function of the drug task force. Nothing wrong with that, either.
Maybe Bracey can help them find a middle ground where both men can find a little comfort.
I certainly hope that's the case.
Because the bottom line is the York County Drug Task Force has been a unit to be reckoned with for 25 years. The men working in it are specially trained in the work of investigating illegal drug activity. And they have done a good job at it.
And to think for a minute it could continue to be as effective without the participation of the six York City Police officers is just silly.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.